History and Customs of Halloween
The word Halloween actually comes from the Catholic church's term "All Hallows Eve." All Hallows Day or "All Saint's Day" was a Catholic holiday set aside to honor saints on November 1st. Celtic Ireland in the 5th centure BC believed that October 31st was the last day of summer -- calling the holiday Samhain (sow-en), which also started the Celtic New Year.
One story goes that spirits of those who died that year came back that day to find bodies to possess. The villagers would put out their fires and dress up in ghoulish costumes making a lot of noise to scare the spirits away so they would not want to possess their bodies.
The Celtic tribes would later light their fires from one Druidic fire kept burning at Usinach in the middle of Ireland.
The Romans later adopted the Celtic practices. As time went on, they weren't so worried about spirits possessing bodies, but they kept dressing up.
Halloween was brought to America in the 1840's by Irish immigrant fleeing their country's potato famine. New England added pranks like tipping over outhouses and unhinging gates to the practive of dressing up.
"Trick-or-treating" came from a 9th century European custom called "souling." On November 2, All Souls Day, Christians would walk from village to village begging for "soul cakes" made from bread and currants. People would offer paryers for the deceased believing it would speed up a soul's passage to heaven. The more cakes given out, the more prayers offered.
The tradition of carving faces into vegetables comes from Ireland. They mostly used turnips, and instead of lighting with a candle like we do now, a hot coal was set inside back then.
The legend tells of how a drunk named Jack met the Devil on his last day here on earth. He bargained with the Devil to buy him one last drink. When the Devil changed into sixpence to pay for Jack's drink, Jack put him in his pocket instead. The Devil couldn't get out for quite a long time because there was a silver cross in the pocket too. When the Devil did escape Jack tricked him again and made the Devil promise never to come back for him again. Jack died soon after that. When he died, his gloomy past kept him out of Heaven, and the Devil couldn't take him either, so he was doomed to walk the earth until Judgment Day. Jack begged for light to shine his way, so the Devil threw him a burning coal from his fires. Jack put the coal in a turnip and held it in his arms at night as he walked the roads.
Jack of Lanterns or "Jack-O-Lantern"
became a symbol of an unfortunate lost soul.
|Have you made a Jack-O-Lantern that you are really proud of? Traditional Jack-O-Lanterns with face are wonderful, but so are ones with interesting Halloween scenes. Send us a picture. We will put it on our page!||
A long, time ago people believed that evil spirits and demons caused destruction and misfortune.
One legend says that near the fall when people are celebrating the Samhain festival, jealous ghots kept on trying to trick mortals by letting them in by the fire. People often wore masks if they went out after dark to keep from being recognized by the ghosts.
Similar things were happening in Europe. Throughout parts of England, the poor would go from door to door begging for soul cakes or money.
A long time ago, people wore masks with ugly and spooky faces whenever diseases and disaster or famine struck. They believe that their spook, ugly, hideous masks would scare away the cause of the bad things.
Recently children dressed up as ghosts and goblins to scare the neighbors. In the United States, housewives gave candy, cookies and apples to children on Halloween in exchange for promises of no naughty tricks or mischief.