Halloween is here again! The most popular time of year for fancy dress - officially more popular than New Year's Eve! You cant help but get involved at Halloween, trick or treating, private party or going out on the town to a fancy dress event - Halloween is the time of year for dressed up fun. We have written a few articles below about the history of Halloween and what it means to help get you in the mood for a fantastic day & night. Halloween 2011 is on Monday 31-10.
Halloween is one of the worlds oldest holidays and is still celebrated in many areas around the world and where it is celebrated the traditions and importance of the celebration vary significantly. However Halloween in the 20th century is very different to the Halloween celebrated in bygone years, with most festivals the traditions celebrated have changed and evolved throughout the years so modern day Halloween is about kids trick or treating all dressed in their Halloween costumes to get as much chocolate and sweeties as they can possibly carry, carving pumpkins and adults having the scariest parties they can manage to create all aimed at just having fun, but what was real meaning and history of Halloween?
Origins of the name Halloween
The name 'Halloween' actually has it's origins in the Catholic Church, originally spelt Hallowe'en it is a variant of 'All Hallows Even', which means the day before All Hallows Day which (more commonly known as All Saints Day), a catholic holiday commemorating saints and martyrs, observed since the Middle Ages on 1st November.
Origins of Halloween
It is thought that origins of Halloween date back to the ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain (pronounced sah-win or sow-een) which literally translates into-end of Summer. The Celts celebrated Sahwain on November the 1st as their new year, marking the end of summer, harvest and the start of winter, which was a time to take stock of supplies and prepare for winter and a time for reflection. It is thought that the Celts associated this season with death and believed that on the 31st October the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead were distorted, and ghosts of the dead could return to earth and cause mayhem, sickness and damage to the community's crops. During this night the Celts would light bonfires built by Druids (Celtic Priests) to burn crops and animal sacrifices to the Celtic Gods, whilst dressed in costumes made of animal skins and heads.
Then over the years the Christian influences spread into the Celtic lands it is thought that around the year 800, Pope Boniface IV designated November the 1st to be called All Saints Day in an attempt to replace the Celetic festival of the dead with an official church sanctioned holiday. Then the night before All Saints Day became known as All Hallows Eve and then Halloween. Then in the year 1000 the church declared November the 2nd to be All Souls Day when the dead were to be honoured. The holiday was celebrated with bonfires, costumes, and parades much like Samhain, and together the 3 celebrations became known as Hallowmas.
The Christian influence spread into the Celtic lands by the year 800. About this time, Pope Boniface IV designated November 1 as All Saint's Day as a time to honor saints and martyrs. Current belief is that the pope was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a church-sanctioned holiday. The celebration was also referred to as All-hallows or All-Hallowmas, which was Middle English for All Saints' Day. Eventually, the night before it began to be called All-hallows Eve and then Halloween. In the year 1000, the church would make November 2 All Souls' Day to honor the dead. The holiday was celebrated similarly to Samhain with bonfires, parades and costumes such as angels, saints and devils. Together, the three celebrations became known as Hallowmas.
The items associated with Halloween that we see today such as pumpkins etc, have also developed over the years with many people not knowing the original meaning behind such things.
Carving pumpkins with scary faces for example it is thought originated from the Celts carving turnips for their Halloween gatherings. There is a story in Irish folklore of Jack, a lazy,drunk, shifty yet shrewd farmer who tricked the Devil, when he died he had been too sinful to go to heaven but the Devil didn't want him in hell either, so when he asked how he was to see his way the devil mockingly threw him an ember from hell which would never burn out, so he carved out a turnip and carried it round as he endlessly wandered the world looking for a resting place. He became known as Jack of the Lantern or Jack o Lantern. When the Irish then settled in America the pumpkin was found to be far better then turnips for carving and so the carved pumpkin became widely recognised as a Halloween symbol, often found on peoples tables or outside their doors on Halloween.
There are many superstitions, folklores and legends surrounding Halloween that have been passed down in some form throughout the years. Some tell of witches and how to meet a witch if need one- you must turn your clothes inside out and walk backwards on Halloween night and at midnight a witch would appear! Many Halloween superstitions are about love, often mirrored in the games that were played, there were many superstitions when played out correctly the image of a young girls husband to be would appear but if the image of a skull appeared you would die before marriage! Babies born on Halloween are said to be able to see and talk to ghosts and have life long protection against evil spirits. There are superstitions surrounding animals with black cats being seen as bad luck and it is said that on Halloween night owls fly down to eat the souls of the dead. It is no wonder there are many ghost stories and eerie goings on at Halloween if all of these are to be believed!
So to make your Halloween party really go with a bang create your own ghost stories making them as scary and creepy as you can, many people these days like to visit haunted buildings or go on ghost walks to really scare themselves silly! Whatever you decide to do, be sure not to squash a spider on Halloween night as they are thought to harbour the spirit of a dead ancestor watching over you!!