Halloween

October 31, 2019

 

Halloween is a holiday celebrated each year on October 31, and Halloween
2019 occurs on Thursday, October 31. The tradition originated with the
ancient Celtic festival of Samhain , when people would light bonfires and wear
costumes to ward off ghosts. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III
designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints. Soon, All Saints Day
incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was
known as All Hallows Eve, and later Halloween. Over time, Halloween evolved
into a day of activities like trick-or-treating, carving jack-o-lanterns, festive
gatherings, putting on costumes and eating treats.

 

Ancient Origins of Halloween
Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain
(pronounced sow-in). The Celts , who lived 2,000 years ago, mostly in the area
that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated their
new year on November 1.

This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the
dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death.
Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between
the worlds of the living and the dead became blurry. On the night of October
31 they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead
returned to earth.

In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the
presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic
priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent
on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of
comfort during the long, dark winter.
For the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to
burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. During the
celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and
skins, and attempted to tell each other’s fortunes.

When the celebration was over, they re-lit the fires in their homes, which they
had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect
them during the coming winter.
By 43 A.D., the Roman Empire had conquered the majority of Celtic territory.
In the course of the 400 years that they ruled the Celtic lands, two festivals of
Roman origin were combined with the traditional Celtic celebration of
Samhain.
The first was Feralia, a day in late October when the Romans traditionally
commemorated the passing of the dead. The second was a day to honor
Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the
apple, and the incorporation of this celebration into Samhain probably
explains the tradition of bobbing for apples that is practiced today on
Halloween .

 

All Saints' Day
On May 13, 609 A.D., Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Pantheon in Rome in
honor of all Christian martyrs, and the Catholic feast of All Martyrs Day was
established in the Western church. Pope Gregory III later expanded the
festival to include all saints as well as all martyrs, and moved the day from
May 13 to November 1.
By the 9th century, the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands,
where it gradually blended with and replaced older Celtic traditions. In 1000
A.D., the church made November 2 All Souls’ Day, a day to honor the dead.
It’s widely believed today that the church was attempting to replace the Celtic
festival of the dead with a related, church-sanctioned holiday.
All Souls’ Day was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades
and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels and devils. The All Saints’ Day
celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from Middle English
Alholowmesse meaning All Saints’ Day) and the night before it, the traditional
night of Samhain in the Celtic religion, began to be called All-Hallows Eve
and, eventually, Halloween.

 

Halloween Comes to America
The celebration of Halloween was extremely limited in colonial New England
because of the rigid Protestant belief systems there. Halloween was much
more common in Maryland and the southern colonies.
As the beliefs and customs of different European ethnic groups and the
American Indians mixed, a distinctly American version of Halloween began to
emerge. The first celebrations included “play parties,” which were public
events held to celebrate the harvest. Neighbors would share stories of the
dead, tell each other’s fortunes, dance and sing.
Colonial Halloween festivities also featured the telling of ghost stories and
mischief-making of all kinds. By the middle of the 19th century, annual autumn
festivities were common, but Halloween was not yet celebrated everywhere in
the country.
In the second half of the 19th century, America was flooded with new
immigrants. These new immigrants, especially the millions of Irish fleeing the
Irish Potato Famine , helped to popularize the celebration of Halloween
nationally.

 

History of Trick-or-Treating
Borrowing from European traditions, Americans began to dress up in
costumes and go house to house asking for food or money, a practice that
eventually became today’s “trick-or-treat” tradition. Young women believed
that on Halloween they could learn the name or appearance of their future
husband by doing tricks with yarn, apple parings or mirrors.
In the late 1800s, there was a move in America to change Halloween into a
holiday more about community and neighborly parties than about ghosts,
pranks and witchcraft . At the turn of the century, Halloween parties for both
children and adults became the most common way to celebrate the day.
Parties focused on games, foods of the season and festive costumes.
Parents were encouraged by newspapers and community leaders to take
anything “frightening” or “grotesque” out of Halloween celebrations. Because
of these efforts, Halloween lost most of its superstitious and religious roots by
the beginning of the twentieth century.

 

Halloween Parties
By the 1920s and 1930s, Halloween had become a secular but
community-centered holiday, with parades and town-wide Halloween parties
as the featured entertainment. Despite the best efforts of many schools and
communities, vandalism began to plague some celebrations in many
communities during this time.
By the 1950s, town leaders had successfully limited vandalism and Halloween
had evolved into a holiday directed mainly at the young. Due to the high
numbers of young children during the fifties baby boom, parties moved from
town civic centers into the classroom or home, where they could be more
easily accommodated.
Between 1920 and 1950, the centuries-old practice of trick-or-treating was
also revived. Trick-or-treating was a relatively inexpensive way for an entire
community to share the Halloween celebration. In theory, families could also
prevent tricks being played on them by providing the neighborhood children
with small treats.
Thus, a new American tradition was born, and it has continued to grow.
Today, Americans spend an estimated $6 billion annually on Halloween,
making it the country’s second largest commercial holiday after Christmas .

 

Halloween Movies
Speaking of commercial success, scary Halloween movies have a long history
of being box office hits. Classic Halloween movies include the “Halloween”
franchise, based on the 1978 original film directed by John Carpenter and
starring Donald Pleasance, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Tony Moran. In
“Halloween,” a young boy named Michael Myers murders his 17-year-old
sister and is sent to jail, only to escape as a teen on Halloween night and seek
out his old home, and a new target.
Considered a classic horror film down to its spooky soundtrack, it inspired 11
other films in the franchise and other “slasher films” like “Scream,” “Nightmare
on Elm Street” and “Friday the 13th.” More family-friendly Halloween movies
include “Hocus Pocus,” “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” “Beetlejuice” and
“It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.”

 

All Souls Day and Soul Cakes
The American Halloween tradition of trick-or-treating probably dates back to
the early All Souls’ Day parades in England. During the festivities, poor people
would beg for food and families would give them pastries called “soul cakes”
in return for their promise to pray for the family’s dead relatives.
The distribution of soul cakes was encouraged by the church as a way to
replace the ancient practice of leaving food and wine for roaming spirits. The
practice, which was referred to as “going a-souling,” was eventually taken up
by children who would visit the houses in their neighborhood and be given ale,
food and money.
The tradition of dressing in costume for Halloween has both European and
Celtic roots. Hundreds of years ago, winter was an uncertain and frightening
time. Food supplies often ran low and, for the many people afraid of the dark,
the short days of winter were full of constant worry.
On Halloween, when it was believed that ghosts came back to the earthly
world, people thought that they would encounter ghosts if they left their
homes. To avoid being recognized by these ghosts, people would wear masks
when they left their homes after dark so that the ghosts would think they were
fellow spirits. On Halloween, to keep ghosts away from their houses, people
would place bowls of food outside their homes to appease the ghosts and
prevent them from attempting to enter.

 

 

Black Cats and Ghosts
Halloween has always been a holiday filled with mystery, magic and
superstition. It began as a Celtic end-of-summer festival during which people
felt especially close to deceased relatives and friends. For these friendly
spirits, they set places at the dinner table, left treats on doorsteps and along
the side of the road and lit candles to help loved ones find their way back to
the spirit world.
Today’s Halloween ghosts are often depicted as more fearsome and
malevolent, and our customs and superstitions are scarier too. We avoid
crossing paths with black cats, afraid that they might bring us bad luck. This
idea has its roots in the Middle Ages , when many people believed that witches
avoided detection by turning themselves into black cats.

 

Halloween Matchmaking and Lesser-Known Rituals
But what about the Halloween traditions and beliefs that today’s trick-or-treaters have
forgotten all about? Many of these obsolete rituals focused on the future instead of the
past and the living instead of the dead.
In particular, many had to do with helping young women identify their future husbands
and reassuring them that they would someday—with luck, by next Halloween—be
married. In 18th-century Ireland, a matchmaking cook might bury a ring in her mashed
potatoes on Halloween night, hoping to bring true love to the diner who found it.
In Scotland, fortune-tellers recommended that an eligible young woman name a
hazelnut for each of her suitors and then toss the nuts into the fireplace. The nut that
burned to ashes rather than popping or exploding, the story went, represented the girl’s
future husband. (In some versions of this legend, the opposite was true: The nut that
burned away symbolized a love that would not last.)
Another tale had it that if a young woman ate a sugary concoction made out of walnuts,
hazelnuts and nutmeg before bed on Halloween night she would dream about her future
husband. Young women tossed apple-peels over their shoulders, hoping that the peels
would fall on the floor in the shape of their future husbands’ initials; tried to learn about
their futures by peering at egg yolks floating in a bowl of water and stood in front of
mirrors in darkened rooms, holding candles and looking over their shoulders for their
husbands’ faces.
Other rituals were more competitive. At some Halloween parties, the first guest to find a
burr on a chestnut-hunt would be the first to marry. At others, the first successful
apple-bobber would be the first down the aisle.
Of course, whether we’re asking for romantic advice or trying to avoid seven years of
bad luck, each one of these Halloween superstitions relies on the goodwill of the very
same “spirits” whose presence the early Celts felt so deeply.

 

 

Fuente: https://www.history.com/topics/halloween/history-of-halloween

 

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