Halloween has finally arrived!
“Halloween Day” is celebrated every year, on 31st October – the last day of October.
There is a lot of work done in advance, to celebrate this “Frightfully Fun October” holiday.
For the Halloween celebration, a lot of thought goes into designing “Spooky Costumes”.
People start buying Pumpkins in advance to try out “Pumpkin Carving” ideas with the children.
“Halloween Celebration” is all about eating a lot of Halloween treats, candies and chocolates. And treating everyone with food that is “Pumpkin-Spice” in flavour.
Children are excited about dressing up in scary outfits and going “Trick-or-Treating”.
Whereas, the elders enjoy the “Boozy” Halloween cocktail and Halloween party games.
“Halloween” and 31st October
“Halloween” is celebrated on 31st October.
The ancient Gaelic festival, “Samhain”, was celebrated on 31st October. This festival is considered the earliest known root of the “Halloween” celebration.
“Samhain” festival marked an essential time of the year. During this time, the seasons changed.
Observers of this festival also believed that the boundary between this world and the other world, became specifically thin, on 31st October.
As the different worlds had come closer, it enabled the observers to connect with the dead.
A similar belief is stated around the Jewish holiday of “Yom Kippur”.
The “Yom Kippur” holiday is also celebrated in October. This holiday is celebrated by saying prayers for the dead. This is also where “Halloween” gains its “haunted” references.
Halloween celebration dates back many, many years.
“31st October” is the “Halloween Day”.
The word “Halloween” means “Hallowed Evening”.
The early Europeans addressed this day as “All Hallows’ Eve”.
“All Hallows’ Eve” was celebrated on 31st October and “All Saints’ Day” was celebrated on 1st November.
The word “Hallows” means “Saints”. As both these celebrations paid homage to the saints, this word got associated with the “Halloween” celebration.
“All Hallows’ Eve” with time, got shortened to “Halloween”.
In the olden times, the pagan and Christian occasions were never celebrated back–to–back.
During the 7th Century CE, “All Saint’s Day ” was celebrated on 13th May.
Pope Boniface IV eventually decided to change the date to 1st November.
It is believed that perhaps the changes in the date were made to succeed the pagan holiday with a Christian observance.
The evening before the “All Saints’ Day” became a holy evening. Also known as “Hallowed Evening/Eve”, which is then shortened to “Halloween”.
The secular and the sacred days had been combined by the end of the “Middle Ages”.
The Reformation makers with all intents and purposes put an end to the religious holiday among Protestants.
Although, Britain continued to celebrate “Halloween” as a secular holiday.
The “Halloween” celebrations were largely prohibited by the early American colonists.
But, with time, in the 1800s, there developed festivals that marked the harvest. They started incorporating the elements of the “Halloween” celebration.
In the mid of the 19th Century, when large numbers of immigrants, including the Irish, went to the United States, they took their Halloween customs with them. “ Halloween ” celebrations started becoming common.
By the 20th Century, “Halloween” became one of the main American holidays. Everyone started celebrating “Halloween” with great enthusiasm, particularly the children.
The History of Halloween Activities
“Samhain” festival is a pagan religious festival. This festival originated from an ancient Celtic spiritual tradition.
In modern times, “Samhain” is usually celebrated from 31st October to 1st November.
The “Samhain” festival is celebrated to usher in “the dark half of the year” and welcome in the harvest.
During the “Samhain” time, people believe that the barriers between the “Physical World” and the “Spirit World” break down. Thus allowing more interaction between humans and citizens of the “Other World”.
The early pagan holiday of “Samhain”, consisted of a lot of ritualistic ceremonies. It was believed that by conducting these ceremonies people would be able to connect with the “spirits”.
Many believe that the Celts celebrated “Samhain” in costumes as a disguise against ghosts. The Celts even enjoyed special feasts and made lanterns by hollowing out gourds, now known as “Jack-o’-lanterns”.
As time passed, Christianity took over. And the pagan undertones of the holiday were reduced. The basic rituals of the holiday became a part of pop culture every year. These rituals/traditions simply evolved and modernized.
The mystical rituals with time evolved into more light-hearted fun and games.
The concepts of connecting to the dead were replaced with light-hearted games, which would tell you about the future.
In the olden days, around the 19th Century, “Halloween” posed a huge matchmaking occasion for young women.
The “Bobbing for Apples”, has become popular as a “Fortune-Telling” game on All Hallows’ Eve.
Earlier “Apples” were selected to represent all of the woman suitors. The guy who would end up “biting” into the “Apple” which belonged to the woman’s suitor, would supposedly represent her “future husband”.
“Mirror-gazing” was also one of the well-known “All Hallows’ Eve” games/traditions.
In this ritual, people would hope to catch a vision of their “Future” by looking into the mirror.
There were even traditions of “Fortune-Cookie” being given out during earlier times.
In one of the rituals, people would write their messages on pieces of paper with milk. These messages were then folded carefully and kept inside the walnut shells.
These walnut shells were then heated over the fire. Because of the heat, the milk which was used for writing would turn brown. This would make the message mystically appear on the paper for the recipient to read.
History of Trick-or-Treating and Halloween Costumes
In the olden times, people were said to dress up as “Saints”.
They would dress up and recite songs and verses by going from door to door.
Children would also go from one house to another, asking for “Soul Cakes”. These cakes were similar to biscuits. They were given out to the children as “Treats”.
“All Souls’ Day” was celebrated on 2nd November, and “Soul Cakes” became the main attraction on this day.
Eventually, “Soul Cakes” and “All Souls’ Day” became part of “Halloween Night”.
“Soul Cakes” evolved into “Trick-or-Treating”.
In the mid-1900s, in America, the “Candy-Grabbing” concept also became mainstream.
The “Candy-Grabbing” concept is that; the families would provide treats to the children. Through these treats, they hoped that they would be “immune to any holiday pranks”.
With time, as the activities evolved so did the costumes!!!
The costumes were essentially worn as an earnest tribute to saints. With time, this tradition changed. This change was brought about by young Scottish and Irish pranksters.
The young Irish and Scottish pranksters came up with an idea!!
Their idea was to dress up in “Scary-Looking Garb” to spook unsuspecting neighbours.
And just like that, the “Halloween Costumes” became scary, spooky, funny, and creative all at the same time.
“Halloween” is one of the most popular holidays celebrated in America today.
“Halloween” celebration didn’t make it across the Atlantic. This is because the Puritans were disapproving of the “Halloween” holiday’s pagan roots.
As large numbers of Irish and Scottish immigrants began to stay in America, the “Halloween” holiday became a part of the American culture.
The very first, American Colonial Halloween celebrations included large public parties. These parties were arranged to honour the upcoming harvest, tell ghost stories, sing, and dance.
By the start of the 20th Century, “Halloween” celebrations gained popularity and had become a part of North American traditions.
Pumpkin carving and Halloween
Originally, “Turnips” were used in place of “Pumpkins”.
Irish people would carve or scoop the “Turnip” in such a way that they looked like scary faces. Then they would place candles in these hallowed turnips.
These lit hallowed turnips were then kept in the fields in the hope that the spooky faces would guard the fields from evil spirits.
The Irish people believed that the boundaries between the outer world (spirits) and our world became intertwined on “Halloween’s Day”. As these beliefs scared many people, a solution to these fears was invented.
To overcome their fear, the concept of “Hallowed and Lit Turnips” came into existence. This was their defence mechanism.
When these Irish immigrants went to America, they discovered “pumpkins”.
The Irish immigrants started using “pumpkins” in place of “turnips”.
They started carving scary faces on the “pumpkin”.
As “pumpkins” were easier to carve they were being used more and more. This gave rise to the tradition of carving out “Jack-o’-lanterns”.
This year too, on 31st October, we all will celebrate “Halloween Day”.
We all will enjoy our favourite candies and admire the creative but scary and spooky “Halloween Costumes” worn by the children.
• The history of Halloween is linked to a pagan festival called “Samhain”.
• The word “Halloween” comes from “All Hallows’ Eve”. It means a “hallowed evening.”
• People used to dress up as saints and went door-to-door. This gave rise to the origin of Halloween costumes and trick-or-treating.