1: Halloween Origins and Traditions of Celebration
Halloween is when
all demons and witches are out for the night hunting, and when there
are pumpkins glaring out of the windows, and when it's better to
give a treat instead of being tricked...
Halloween is celebrated
each year on October 31. It had its beginnings in an ancient, pre-Christian
Celtic festival of the dead. The Celtic peoples, who were once found
all over Europe, divided the year by four major holidays. According
to their calendar, the year began on a day corresponding to November
1st on our present calendar. The date marked the beginning of winter.
All Hallows' Even, later shortened to Halloween, was observed on
the evening of October 31st.
Halloween is for the Celtic peoples (Scotch, Irish, and part of
the English) the eve of the festival of Samhain (pronounced Sah-ween),
Lord of the dead. The Celtic year ended on October 31, the eve of
Samhain, and was celebrated with both religious and agrarian rites.
For the Druids, Samhain was both the "end of summer" and a festival
of the dead. It was the period for threshing and food preparation
for the winter season. People believed that on this day the spirits
of the departed visited their kinsmen in search of warmth and cheering
as winter approached.
It was the biggest
and most significant holiday of the Celtic year. The Celts believed
that at the time of Samhain, more so than any other time of the
year, the ghosts of the dead were able to mingle with the living,
because at Samhain the souls of those who had died during the year
traveled into the otherworld. People gathered to sacrifice animals,
fruits, and vegetables. They also lit bonfires in honor of the dead,
to aid them on their journey, and to keep them away from the living.
On that day all kinds of beings were present: ghosts, fairies, and
demons - all of them part of the dark and dread.
Church tried to wipe out "pagan" holidays, such as Samhain, through
its missionaries. The Druid festival of Samhain was meant to be
replaced forever with Hallowmas, or All Saints' Day, on November
1. This did not happen, but the status of the traditional Celtic
deities diminished substantially. The Christian feast of All Saints
was established to honor all saints, known and unknown. Thus, the
festival of the pagan lord of the dead became the festival of the
Christian dead, in memory of early Christians who died for their
beliefs and to honor all those who died in the faith.
Anyway, All Saints
Day, otherwise known as All Hallows (hallowed means sanctified
or holy), continued the ancient Celtic traditions. The evening
prior to the day was the time of the most intense activity, both
human and supernatural. People continued to celebrate All Hallows
Eve as a time of the wandering dead, but the supernatural beings
were now thought to be evil. People continued to please those spirits
by setting out gifts of food and drink. Subsequently, All Hallows
Eve became Hallow Evening, which became Hallowe'en.
Halloween traditions date back to those early periods when people
paraded through the streets in costumes and masks. Wandering groups
of celebrants blocked doors of houses, carried away gates and plows,
tapped on windows, threw vegetables at doors (corn candy). In some
places boys and girls dressed in clothing of the opposite sex and,
wearing masks, visited neighbors to play tricks.
☻The "trick or treat" custom resembles an old Irish practice
associated with Halloween. Groups of peasants went from house to
house demanding food and other gifts in preparation for the evening's
festivities. The poor begged from door to door and were given pastries.
Prosperity was assured for the liberal donors and threats were made
against the stingy ones.
The "Jack-o-lantern" tradition most probably came from the
Irish folklore. There is a legend about a man called Jack, the drunkard
and liar, who once used one of his tricks to make the devil himself
climb up the tree. As the devil was up, Jack carved a cross on the
tree trunk, and the devil was imprisoned in the crown of tree. Then
Jack promised to let the devil go if the latter would never ever
seduce him again. ... When Jack died, the admission to the sky was
refused to him since he had done only bad, but even the hell remained
blocked because he was also a pest for the devil. The devil gave
Jack only one little spark with which he had to move through the
complete darkness, and that spark was in a scooped carrot, so that
it could glow longer. So the Irish also used carrots for their first
lanterns, but when they arrived in America, they found lots of pumpkins
- much better material for the lanterns. Thus appeared "Jack-o-lanterns"
made out of pumpkins with light inside.
☻Witches occupy a special place in Germans' spiritual pagan past. The most
famous spot for witches was in the Harz mountain region in Germany.
Until the 18th century, German maps even showed witches' hovering
over this spot, namely the Brocken
peak. The Brocken peak is said to be populated with witches, who
were once forest goddesses, later priestesses, then female doctors
and marvelous women of the night who were first worshipped, then
stared at with awe and admiration, and finally damned. For Germans
Halloween blended with the night of witches, the Walpurgisnacht,
which took place in the Harz mountains on the night before May 1.