Curious History

Curious History

The Folklore of All Hallows

Halloween Celebrations Of Old

Come October 31 and we all gather to prepare a party All Hallows’ Evening or as we all like to call it, Halloween. Its origin lies in the ancient Celtic festival called Samhain (pronounced as sah-ween) which marked the end of the harvest season. The Gaels thought that on October 31, the dead would come back to life and create havoc by damaging the crops. Therefore, people sacrificed animals, and carved fruits and vegetables to appease the dead. They lit bonfire to honor the dead and help them on their passage.

But Christian missionaries in the first millennium A.D. tried to change this practice by converting their religion. The Celts practiced their religion with the help of their priests, Druids, who proclaimed themselves as scholars, scientists and priests. To wipe out pagan holidays like Samhain, Pope Gregory the First passed a new edict in 601 A.D. to his missionaries saying not to change the customs and beliefs, instead use it. For instance, if a group worshiped a tree, rather than cutting it down, bless it and continue worshiping. Therefore, November 1st was considered as the Christian feast of All Saints. As a result, Druids were considered devil worshipers and had to go into hiding. But the belief in traveling dead was too strong to be eradicated.

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The church again tried to replace the day with a feast in the 9th century. This time, they came up with November 2 as All Souls Day, but all in vain. The evening before All Saints Day was considered as a day of supernatural activities, accompanied with food and drink. Gradually, All Hallows Eve became Hallow Evening. Stories of leprechauns and fairies came up, soul cakes in England became important and it was considered as a day of the forecast.

The Irish and the Scottish immigrants introduced this festival in North America in the 19th century. By the late 20th century, it spread to countries, such as UK, Australia, New Zealand, Puerto Rico, and Canada. Traditional activities included bonfire, masks and costumes to appease the evil spirits, visiting haunted houses and carving jack-o-lantern. People dressed in their costumes roam from door to door demanding treats because earlier people believed that the souls of the dead roamed the place along with witches, fairies, etc. As the years passed by, people started dressing up like witches, ghosts, performing tricks in return for food and drink, which is called as mumming. Other Celtic traditions that are still practiced today include bobbing for apples, carving  vegetables and fruits.

Today, Halloween is like a masquerade party where men and women disguise and parade on the streets.

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