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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Guest Post: Origins of Halloween, from Amanda Kidd

The most bewitching and frightful night: Halloween
Different people call it by different names: Samhain, Snap Apple night, Lamswool, Witches Night, All Hallow’s Eve and summer’s End. Considered to be one of the world’s oldest holidays, its roots can be found in ancient Christian and pagan festivals. All over the western world, Halloween is celebrated in various forms. It delights both, children and adults and exists in an exciting array of dichotomies. This festival has evolved over time, with new elements being added to it from the cultures it came in contact with.
The origin
The origin for Halloween arguably lies in ancient Celtic (which included people from Ireland, Scotland, Cornwall, Isle of Man and Brittany) festivals. The elements of Halloween, such as lighting bonfires, trick or treating, costumes, community gatherings and the telling of ghost stories, can be traced back to the 2,000 year old Celtic festival of ‘Samhain’, meaning ‘summer’s end’. It marked the end of summer and beginning of a new year. Because of this transition, it was seen as a night of power and magic. Samhain was considered to be a sacred festival that marked the boundary between life and death.

The story
The Celts believed that the Lord of Death, Saman, would call all the dead souls to travel to the afterlife. Ancestral ghosts emerged from mounds and barrows, and were free to roam across earth, harming crops and causing trouble. Villagers would parade in a masquerade to drive the spirits towards the town. The Celts would also present food to Saman, the Death Lord and their weary ancestors travelling to the other world. Thus, the tradition of Halloween evolved from these rituals.

The legend of Jack O’Lantern
Between 1820 and 1870, the US saw a rush of Irish migrants. With them, came their beliefs and culture, which the Americans adopted willingly. These included house to house visits, masquerades and the famous Halloween symbol: the Jack O’Lantern. According to the Irish legends, Jack was a man who once captured the Devil in a tree. He put up a condition to the Devil before releasing him. He asked the Devil to promise him that he won’t be sent to Hell after he died. The Devil agreed and was set free. However, when Jack died, he was not allowed inside the Heaven’s gate because he was a sinful man. But he was also not sent to the Hell because of his pact with the devil. The devil then gave him a burning ember from the Hell’s fire which Jack placed inside a carrot or a turnip, and used it to navigate the dark places on Earth. The Irish, upon their arrival in America, found pumpkins in plentiful. They used the fruit to craft the Jack O’Lantern.

The contemporary scenario
Halloween today is the second biggest festival after Christmas in the western world. The popularity of the festival has seen many ups and downs in the modern era with commercialization and industrialization being major influences. For example, in the 1920s, candy manufacturers and businessmen cashed in on Halloween by advertising ‘the perfect Halloween party’. In 1939, ‘American Homes’ magazine became the first periodical in the country to use the term ‘Trick or Treat’ as a different property protection tactic. The phrase was coined after mischief in the US and reached an all time high during the festival, when youngsters would damage property.
Halloween has incorporated influences from the Catholic Church, religious and political groups over the time. However, the charm of the festival still remains unchanged. The festival continues to be the most awaited and the most bewitching night of the year.


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About the author: Amanda Kidd is a writer and blogger and who happens to be a fashion buff. Her lifestyle includes healthy ways to improve mental and physical sustainability. She is currently planning to write something different like home décor and design ideas.


Click here to be taken to the Helluva Halloween Main Page!

2 comments:

  1. The origin for Halloween arguably lies in ancient Celtic (which included people from Ireland, Scotland, Cornwall, Isle of Man, Brittany, and *Wales*!)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Good call, Nara. Agreed. But I didn't write it, so I'm not going to change the wording unless Amanda asks me to. :)

    ReplyDelete

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