Sunday, October 31, 2004

Happy Halloween

The Halloween History dates back to the 5th century B.C. The Halloween History is very interesting as it reflect how Halloween has evovled thru the years and how customs and traditions have changed over time. The Halloween History makes for a good reading , and makes one aware of the origin of halloween

The festival of Halloween as we celebrate it today is an interesting juxtaposition of a Christian and a pagan festival.

Searching for the history & origin of this festival takes us back to the 5th. century B.C. in Celtic Ireland. In those days, the year ended with the end of summer which officially used to end on 31st.October. This day was called Samhain.

The Celts had a strong belief in the afterlife and they believed that the spirits of those who died in the preceding year came back on this day to possess the living bodies for the next year. This was the only hope of the spirits for afterlife. But obviously those who were living did not want to be possessed. So to repel the evil spirits the common custom was to extinguish all the fire in the house and then dress up in a horrible manner and parade in the streets. If anybody was believed to be possessed then as a warning to the spirits that person was burnt alive. A better explanation of why the Celts extinguished their fires is that this was done not to ward off the evil spirits but to rekindle it from the Druidic fire that was kept burning in the middle of Ireland.

The Romans adopted this Pagan festival but in the 1st. century A.D. the custom of burning live human beings was replaced by the custom of burning effigies.

The custom of Halloween came over to America in 1840 with the Irish who had immigrated there to escape the potato famine. The favorite prank in New England at that time was tripping over the outhouse and unhinging the poultry gate.

The custom of trick or treat is thought to have originated from a ninth century European custom called souling. On 2nd Nov..."All Saints Day" the early Christians went from door to door begging for 'soul cakes' (square pieces of bread made with currents). The more cakes a person gave the more prayers were said for the soul of those dead in that house. It was believed that the souls did not receive entry into heaven till prayers even by strangers were uttered on behalf of the dead.

The custom of Jack-o-lantern probably comes from Irish folklores. Jack was notorious as a drunkard and trickster. He once tricked Satan to climb a tree and then carved out an image of cross on the trunk so that Satan was trapped on the tree. Only after Satan made a promise that he'll never tempt Jack again he was allowed to climb down. After death Jack was denied entry into heaven for his evil ways and the door of Hell was also closed to him for tricking Satan. Satan gave him a single ember to light his way through the frigid darkness. To make it light longer it was placed inside a hollowed out turnip to make it glowing longer.

The Irish used turnips as Jack-o-lanterns but in America they found pumpkins to be far more plentiful than turnips, so the turnips were replaced by pumpkins.

Hence contrary to the popular belief Halloween did not grow out of evil practices. Today Halloween is celebrated in a jovial mood. Children dress up in different costumes and go from door to door calling out trick or treat. They are given candies and sweets. There is nothing evil about this day.

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