Halloween has become a much commercialized event with parents, here in the UK and America, buying pumpkins, cakes, cookies and sweets. Arranging Halloween parties for the children, getting the children dressed up in Halloween costumes, arranging to go out ‘trick or treating’. And there will also be many households with and without children that will go out and buy lots of ‘treats’ in readiness for a busy, door knocking, night. There is an assumption in the UK, and other countries, that Halloween is a purely an American import only to be enjoyed by the Americans. However this year while swapping scary ghost stories, you could tell those gathered around that in actual fact Halloween can be traced back to the Celts in Scotland and the British Christians.
Halloween And The Celts
The Celts had many pagan festivals and whenever Christianity appeared in Scotland, the Christians would combine the festivals of the church onto the established pagan festivals to ensure continuous belief. This eventually evolved folklore festivals from Celtic to Christian. For the Christians Halloween, All Saints Day is celebrated on 31 October. For the Celts Halloween, The Feast of All Saints, which then leads on to, All Hallows Day starts from 31 October to 1 November. This was called the Feast of the Dead ‘Samhuinn’ which marks the ‘Summers End’. Samhuinn would begin at the first full moon, following the first frost of the winter and would last around two weeks. The Celts would gather to celebrate the end of another working year and they took the time to enjoy the fruits of their labors.
As well as a god the Celts also worshipped a goddess. These deities had many different names, in different places, however, they all represented one god. Cernunnos was also known as Herne, and was the Celtic god of the wildwood and wore the horned antlers of a Stag which symbolized nobility and greatness. At ‘Summers End’ or ‘Samhuinn’ the Celts believed the goddess would retreat into the underworld, to search for her lost husband who, was ‘Corn King’ and had been sacrificed at ‘Lugnasad’ the feast of Lugh, 2 August. Samhuinn, Summers End, was for remembering the dead. A belief which, today still has echoes and has given rise to a modern celebration, telling stories and eating around bonfires lit to aid the falling sun.
Halloween The Festival Of The Dead
When the Celts celebrated the Festival of the Dead, at this time it was thought that the line between the two worlds was at its thinnest and the spirits of the dead walked amongst us. Our ancestors left out plates of food and drink as an offering hoping that in return the spirits would protect them. Samhuinn or Halloween isn’t a depressing event. It is a time of light, in preparation of the Sun God born to the virgin goddess at the winter solstice. It is a reminder that ‘all that dies shall be reborn’
Halloween rituals can be traced back to pagan fashion. Such as ‘dookin’ for apples’ (apples were sacred to the druids) the turnip (now a pumpkin) lantern this is was a direct descendant of the pagan fashion of placing skulls of the dead on poles to ward of evil spirits. Bonfires were also an important element for pagans as fires would be lit upon hilltops to encourage the sun to return.
The Dark Side of This Beloved Holiday
Halloween is one of the most fun holidays for kids of all ages. Imaginative and creative activities abound during the Halloween season. Some of the traditional activities include trick-or-treating, bobbing for apples, horror houses, and bonfires. For all the tradition and good times this holiday brings, there is a dark side to Halloween that many people don’t know about. There are even Conservative Christians that consider Halloween to be a dangerous and anti-Christian holiday.
The Origins Of Halloween
Halloween is a holiday celebrated on the night of October 31. Halloween has its origins in the ancient Celtic celebration known as Samhain. Samhain was the time when ancient pagans took stock of supplies and stored up for winter. In what is now Britain and France, it was the beginning of the Celtic year and they believed Samhain (lord of death) sent evil spirits to attack humans. The humans could only escape by wearing disguises and looking like evil spirits themselves.
Trick Or Treat
“Trick-Or-Treat, give me something good to eat.” was a beloved chant on October 31, when I was growing up. Kids would congregate together in neighborhoods and skip and jump from door to door. Trick-Or-Treating is frequently discouraged in certain circles these days. Trick-Or-Treating goes back to the time of the Druids. The Druids are Celtic Priests. They believed sinful souls were released upon the earth by Samhain for one night on October 31 while they await their judgment. The spirits would go door to door. People were afraid of these spirits. They thought the spirits would harm or kill them if sacrifices didn’t appeal to Samhain. People carved demonic faces into pumpkins to keep the evil spirits away.
Christian Roots of Halloween
When Christianity spread to parts of Europe, instead of abolishing certain pagan customs, people introduced ideas that reflected a more Christian view. Halloween has a mixture of Christian and Pagan practices. As the influence of Christianity spread, in the 7th century, Pope Boniface IV introduced All Saints Day, a time to honor the saints and martyrs, to replace the pagan festival of the dead. It was first observed on May 13. In 834, Gregory III moved All Saints Day from May 13 to November 1. For Christians, this becomes an opportunity to remember before God all the saints who had died and all the dead in the Christian community. October 31 became All Hallows’ Eve (Hallow means Saint).
Pagan Roots In Other Christian Holidays
Halloween takes a bashing for the pagan customs associated with it. Many people overlook the Christian practices that later took center place for Halloween. Other Christian holidays are rooted in Pagan customs. Easter is one of those holidays. The Pagan roots lie in celebrating the Spring Equinox. Occurring every year on May 20, 21, or 22, the Spring Equinox is the end of winter and beginning of spring. It represents the northern climates, the end of a dead season and the rebirth of life, as well as the importance of fertility and reproduction.
Halloween is a Fun Celebration for Kids of All Ages
Kids of all ages have enjoyed the creative and imaginative aspects of Halloween for hundreds of years. For one night a kid can change their identity and be anything, or anybody, from a superhero to a princess. Kids can have fun with the scary identity of a witch with the black pointy hat, stringy hair and cackling laugh. Being a ghost made from a white sheet or a big green ugly monster can be a one-night scary adventure.
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