History of Halloween, like any other festival's history is inspired through traditions that have transpired through ages from one generation to another. We follow them mostly as did our dads and grandpas. And as this process goes on, much of their originality get distorted with newer additions and alterations. It happens so gradually, spanning over so many ages, that we hardly come to know about these distortions. At one point of time it leaves us puzzled, with its multicolored faces. Digging into its history helps sieve out the facts from the fantasies which caught us unaware. Yet, doubts still lurk deep in our soul, especially when the reality differs from what has taken a deep seated root into our beliefs. The history of Halloween Day, as culled from the net, is being depicted here in this light. This is to help out those who are interested in washing off the superficial hues to reach the core and know things as they truly are. 'Trick or treat' may be an innocent fun to relish on the Halloween Day. But just think about a bunch of frightening fantasies and the scary stories featuring ghosts, witches, monsters, evils, elves and animal sacrifices associated with it. They are no more innocent. Are these stories a myth or there is a blend of some reality?
The word itself, "Halloween," actually has its origins in the Catholic Church. It comes from a contracted corruption of All Hallows Eve. November 1, "All Hollows Day" (or "All Saints Day"), is a Catholic day of observance in honor of saints. But, in the 5th century BC, in Celtic Ireland, summer officially ended on October 31. The holiday was called Samhain (sow-en), the Celtic New year.
One story says that, on that day, the disembodied spirits of all those who had died throughout the preceding year would come back in search of living bodies to possess for the next year. It was believed to be their only hope for the afterlife. The Celts believed all laws of space and time were suspended during this time, allowing the spirit world to intermingle with the living.
Naturally, the still-living did not want to be possessed. So on the night of October 31, villagers would extinguish the fires in their homes, to make them cold and undesirable. They would then dress up in all manner of ghoulish costumes (similar to today's Halloween costumes), and noisily parade around the neighborhood, being as destructive as possible in order to frighten away spirits looking for bodies to possess.
Probably a better explanation of why the Celts extinguished their fires was not to discourage spirit possession, but so that all the Celtic tribes could relight their fires from a common source, the Druidic fire that was kept burning in the Middle of Ireland, at Usinach.
Some accounts tell of how the Celts would burn someone at the stake who was thought to have already been possessed, as sort of a lesson to the spirits. Other accounts of Celtic history debunk these stories as myth.
The Romans adopted the Celtic practices as their own. But in the first century AD, Samhain was assimilated into celebrations of some of the other Roman traditions that took place in October, such as their day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple, which might explain the origin of our modern tradition of bobbing for apples on Halloween.
In Greek mythology, goddesses of the underworld were often used to invoke the Samhain. Popular costumes portray Hecate and Medusa. Hecate was the most favored goddess by Zeus, and wandered the emptiness between the worlds of life and death looking for souls of the dead. Both were considered serpent goddesses, and their ancient dark legends spawned myths such as vampires, who fed off the living using venom and snake-like fangs. Ritualistic dress includes snake adornments and three headed masks. Today, Hecate is often referred to as the goddess of witches.
The thrust of the practices also changed over time to become more ritualized. As belief in spirit possession waned, the practice of dressing up like hobgoblins, ghosts, and witches took on a more ceremonial role.
The custom of Halloween was brought to America in the 1840's by Irish immigrants fleeing their country's potato famine. At that time, the favorite pranks in New England included tipping over outhouses and unhinging fence gates.
The custom of trick n treat is thought to have originated not with the Irish Celts, but with a ninth-century European custom called souling. On November 2, All Souls Day, early Christians would walk from village to village begging for "soul cakes," made out of square pieces of bread with currants. The more soul cakes the beggars would receive, the more prayers they would promise to say on behalf of the dead relatives of the donors. At the time, it was believed that the dead remained in limbo for a time after death, and that prayer, even by strangers, could expedite a soul's passage to heaven.
The Jack-o-lantern custom probably comes from Irish folklore. As the tale is told, a man named Jack, who was notorious as a drunkard and trickster, tricked Satan into climbing a tree. Jack then carved an image of a cross in the tree's trunk, trapping the devil up the tree. Jack made a deal with the devil that, if he would never tempt him again, he would promise to let him down the tree.
According to the folk tale, after Jack died, he was denied entrance to Heaven because of his evil ways, but he was also denied access to Hell because he had tricked the devil. Instead, the devil gave him a single ember to light his way through the frigid darkness. The ember was placed inside a hollowed-out turnip to keep it glowing longer.
The Irish used turnips as their "Jack's lanterns" originally. But when the immigrants came to America, they found that pumpkins were far more plentiful than turnips. So the Jack-O-Lantern in America was a hollowed-out pumpkin, lit with an ember.
So, although some cults may have adopted Halloween as their favorite "holiday," the day itself did not grow out of evil practices. It grew out of the rituals of Celts celebrating a new year, and out of Medieval prayer rituals of Europeans. And today, even many churches have parties complete with Halloween costumes or pumpkin carving events for the kids. After all, the day itself is only as evil as one cares to make it.
I found great recipes for this day. Enjoy in it and share impressions and photos with us!
A Halloween treat idea from FamilyFun magazine
1. Heat the oven to 450º.
2. Cut two small round prebaked pizza crusts into wedges that resemble the shape of candy corn. Top each wedge with rows of white, orange, and yellowish cheeses, as shown.
3. Bake the wedges on a cookie sheet for 8 to 10 minutes, then let them cool for 5 minutes before serving. Makes 16 to 20.
A Mwa-ha-ha-ha Midday Meal
Say "boo" to ordinary fare by packing this school lunch for your child.
Green fruit leather
Use a paring knife to cut a sandwich into a skull or bite-size fingers, as shown. For the latter, add red pepper nails. To turn a clementine into a jack-o'-lantern, press on green fruit leather shapes.
Mini Witch's Brooms
A Halloween snack idea from FamilyFun magazine
These sweet and salty snacks are sure to be swept away in no time, so you'll want to make lots.
Roll of Fruit by the Foot
For each one, cut a 2-inch length from a roll of Fruit by the Foot.
With the shorter ends on the side, fringe the bottom of the strip (leaving a 1/4-inch border uncut along the top) to create thin broom bristles.
Then moisten the upper edge of the fruit with a drop of water and tightly wrap it around one end of a thin pretzel-stick broom handle.
Half package (7 ounces) green meltable candy wafers
peanut butter cookies, such as Nutter Butter brand
Follow the instructions on the candy wafer package to melt the wafers in a wide bowl. For each goblin foot, hold the edge of a cookie and dip it in the melted candy.
Place the cookie on a sheet of waxed paper and use a spoon to smooth the candy over the spot your fingers covered.
Place three cashew halves on the cookie for claws. (The candy may need to cool a minute or two for it to be stiff enough to hold the nuts in place.) Let the cookies set at room temperature.
Gingerbread cookie dough
To make a batch, punch out shapes from cookie dough using cat and gingerbread-man cookie cutters, then bake. When the cookies are cool, pipe on frosting bones.
Hope you like this post. Happt Haloween and dont forget to share some of your recipes with me !