CONTENTS History of Halloween Where does the name Halloween come from Traditions connected with Halloween Did you know...? MAIN MENU
History of Halloween The tradition of Halloween began way back in the fifth century BC by the Irish Celts, who organised their year according to the agricultural calendar and marked the transition from one year to the next on October 31. The story goes that during the transistion spirits would return to earth, looking for living bodies to possess for the following year.
The Celts would then dress up in ghoulish costumes and parade around the community to frighten them away. Years later, the tradition of trick-or- treating is thought to have grown from a ninth century European custom, souling, when early Christians would make house calls begging for soul cakes. It was thought that even strangers could help a soul's passage to heaven by saying prayers, so, in exchange for a cake they promised to pray for the donors' deceased relatives.
Where does the name Halloween come from? In the year 835 AD the Roman Catholic Church made November 1st a church holiday to honor all the saints. This day is called All Saint's Day. It used to be also known as Hallowmas or All Hallows. Gradually, over the years, October 31st became known as All Hallow Even, eventually All Hallow's Eve, Halloween, and then Halloween as we know it today.
Traditions connected with Halloween Apple Bombing Dressing up Fire Hazel Nuts Jack-O-Lanterns Trick or Treat
Apple Bombing The Roman festival for remembering the dead was also in October. During this time, the Romans remembered their goddess, Pomona. She was the goddess of the trees and fruits, and when the Romans came to Britain, they began to hold these two festivals on the same day as Samhain. Apples probably became associated with Halloween because of this festival. 1) If you slice an apple through the equator (to reveal the five-pointed star within) and then eat it by candlelight before a mirror, your future spouse will appear over your shoulder. 2) Peel an apple, making sure the peeling comes off in one long strand and then throw it over your shoulder. The shape it lands in will be the initial of your beloved.
Dressing up 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 mistake them for 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.
Fire Fire has always played an important part in Halloween. Fire was very important to the Celts as it was to all early people. In the old days people lit bonfires to ward away evil spirits and in some places they used to jump over the fire to bring good luck. Today, we light candles in pumpkin lanterns and then put them outside our homes to ward of evil spirits.
Hazel Nuts Girls placed hazel nuts along the front of the firegrate, each one to symbolize one of her suitors. She could then divine her future husband by chanting, 'If you love me, pop and fly; if you hate me, burn and die.'
Jack-O-Lanterns Jack-O'-Lanterns are hollowed-out pumpkins with a face cut into one side. People once carved out beets, potatoes and turnips to use as lanterns on Halloween. Now-a-days we carve out pumpkins. According to an Irish legend, jack-o-lanterns were named for a man named Jack, who could not enter heaven because he was a miser. He could not enter hell either, because he had played jokes on the devil. So instead, he had to walk the earth with his lantern until Judgment Day.
Trick or Treat "Trick or Treat" was first known as Mischief Night. Halloween was a time for making mischief - many parts of England still recognise this date as Mischief Night - when children would knock on doors demanding a treat (Trick or Treat) and people would disguise themselves as witches, ghosts, kelpies and spunkies, in order to obtain food and money from nervous householders.
Did you know that our ancestors celebrated New Year on November 1st? The Celts (ancient inhabitants of Great Britain) celebrated their New Year on November 1st. It was celebrated every year with a festival that marked the end of the "season of the sun" and the beginning of "the season of darkness and cold. On the eve before their new year (October 31), it was believed that Samhain (Lord of the Dead and Prince of Darkness) called together all the dead people. The Celts believed the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred on this night.
On October 31st, the Druids, who were the priests and teachers of the Celts, would meet in the hilltop in the dark oak forest (oak trees were considered sacred). The Druids would light fires and offer sacrifices of crops, animals and possibly even human beings. They told fortunes about the coming year by examining the remains of the animals that had been sacrificed. As they danced around the the fires, the season of the sun passed and the season of darkness would begin. When the morning arrived the Druids would give an ember from their fires to each family who would then take them home to start new cooking fires. These fires would keep the homes warm and free from evil spirits