Halloween/Samhain.

Halloween-2014-5

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Happy Halloween

 This is the article that I meant to write last year and ran out of time. Better late than never.

Please note that credit for the supplied information should be given to the sites detailed under ‘websites.’

Halloween Facts

  • Evolved from the Celtic holiday of Samhain (pronounced sah-win) and has been dated back to 5 B.C.
  • The modern name is said to come from “All Hallows Evening,” Hallow being the Old English word for holy person.
  • It was traditionally a time to prepare for the shift from a time of plenty to a time of darkness, cold and death. As such, in the ancient world it marked the final harvest of the year. Crops would be placed into storage and the cooking fires would be extinguished. The Celtic priests would meet amongst oak trees (representing strength) and light fires, offering sacrifices to thank the summer Gods and appease the coming Gods of wintertime. An ember from these sacred fires would be given to each family so that a new cooking fire could be started, keeping their homes warm and banishing any evil spirits that may wish to harm them during the winter months.
  • It was also believed that the boundaries between the realm of the living and dead were thinnest at this time. The dead may return to harm the living, blight their crops or spread sickness.
  • Samhain festivals traditionally lasted 3 days. People wore costumes made from the skins of animals to represent various Gods.
  • Although the holiday originated in the United Kingdom it was taken to the USA by the first large wave of Irish immigrants. At the time it was common for children to go out “guising” on October 31 to beg for food or money. Those who refused would often find themselves victims of pranks – chalk drawings on the door or similar.
  • Halloween became more popular in the 1920s when people began to host lavish parties and stores soon began to sell pre-made costumes. Celebrations were minimal during WWII due to sugar rationing. It became more similar to the holiday we enjoy today in the 50s and 60s. At this time trick or treating was thought to be wholesome family fun. Interestingly this coincided with the rise of the suburban neighbourhood.
  • It is believed that the Church attempted to reduce the importance of traditional pagan festivals such as Samhain. It was a subtle takeover, with the focus on re-appropriation of traditional holidays. As such November 1 became All Saint’s Day, celebrating those saints who did not have their own holy day.

Tradition

  • Masks and costumes were worn in an attempt to mimic, blend in with, or appease evil spirits.
  • The Jack O Lantern is a carved pumpkin or turnip. Do you want to know why it is called a Jack O Lantern? You can read about it here.
  • Trick or treating is said to be similar to the medieval practice of “souling” when poor folks would beg for food or other items in return for prayers to appease the dead. In medieval times people would make “soul cakes,” (bread and currant puddings). Children would beg for these treats. Trick or treating is even mentioned in Shakespeare. In The Two Gentleman of Verona (1593) Speed accuses his master of “puling” (whimpering) like a beggar at Halloween.
  • The traditional colours of Halloween are orange and black. Orange represents the harvest, while black symbolises the death of the summer and the darkness of the coming months.
  • The apple was sacred in ancient times and was often used for divination. Hence the idea for bobbing for apples – you are searching for your future. Like wedding cake it is believed a woman can put a piece of her bobbed apple under her pillow to dream of her future love.
  • Traditions around the world.
  • Top 10 Irish traditions for Halloween.
  • Halloween superstitions explained.

Urban Legends

  • Poisoned candy/chocolate. False.
  • Blue star tattoo hoax. False.
  • Campus murder. False.
  • Terrorists? False.

Things to do

Websites (credit)

Halloween makeup tutorials

Safety first

  • If you’re going trick or treating always let someone know where you’re going. It is best to trick or treat in pairs/groups.
  • Don’t eat all your sweets at once. Trust me.
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