Canadian Halloween: Halloween Origins


Canadian Haunters Association


Halloween Origins

Halloween has roots in the Celtic festival of Samhain and the Christian holiday All Saints' Day, but is today largely a secular celebration. The ancient Celts believed that the border between this world and the Otherworld became thin on Samhain, allowing spirits (both harmless and harmful) to pass through. The family's ancestors were honoured and invited home while harmful spirits were warded off. It is believed that the need to ward off harmful spirits led to the wearing of costumes and masks. The word Halloween is first attested in the 16th century and represents a Scottish variant of the fuller All-Hallows-Eve, that is, the night before All Hallows Day.

October 31 was Samhain for the ancient Celts--the death night of the old year. Druids (priests) lit huge bonfires, while people dressed as demons and witches paraded noisily through the streets to frighten off the roving souls believed to be seeking new homes for the new year.Halloween means hallowed or holy evening.

Halloween has it's origins in the British Isles, and with the Celts who lived there. They celebrated a fall festival called Samhain (SAW-win).

This festival not only celebrated the end of summer's growing season, it also marked the beginning of the cold, hard, lean months to come.In the 9th century, the Catholic Church named November 1st 'All Saint's Day'.

The night before, October 31, was known as All Hollow's Eve. The people believed the souls of the dead came to visit their former home on this night.

Halloween is one of the world's oldest holidays, and is still celebrated today in several countries around the globe.

The autumn rite is commemorated in the United Kingdom, although with a surprising and distinctive British twist. In Mexico, Latin America, and Spain, All Souls' Day, the third day of the three-day Hallowmas observance, is the most important part of the celebration for many people.

In Ireland and Canada, Halloween, which was once a frightening and superstitious time of year, is celebrated much as it is in the United States, with trick-or-treating, costume parties, and fun for all ages.

Now Hallowe'en has become one of the most widely celebrated festivals on the contemporary North American calendar, and it is not even officially a holiday. No day off is given for Hallowe'en, no federal decree is proclaimed establishing it as a national holiday. People just celebrate it!

'Tis now the very witching time of night, When churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out Contagion to this world.' William Shakespeare

The history of Halloween and fun pumpkin facts!

The custom of trick or treating probably has several origins. During Samhain, the Druids believed that the dead would play tricks on mankind and cause panic and destruction.

They had to be appeased, so country folk would give the Druids food as they visited their homes.An old Irish peasant practice called for going door to door to collect money, breadcake, cheese, eggs, butter, apples, etc., in preparation for the festival of St. Columb Kill.

Also a ninth-century European custom called souling. On November 2, All Souls Day, early Christians would walk from village to village begging for "soul cakes" made out of square pieces of bread with currants.

The more soul cakes the beggars would receive, the more prayers they would promise to say on behalf of the dead relatives of the donors. At the time, it was believed that the dead remained in limbo for a time after death, and that prayer, even by strangers, could expedite a soul's passage to heaven.

Trick-or-treating or Guising, is a customary practice for children on Halloween in many countries. Children in costumes travel from house to house in order to ask for treats such as candy (or, in some cultures, money) with the question "Trick or treat?". The "trick" is a (usually idle) threat to perform mischief on the homeowners or their property if no treat is given.

The word itself, "Halloween," actually has its origins in the Catholic Church. It comes from a contracted corruption of All Hallows Eve. November 1, "All Hollows Day" (or "All Saints Day"), is a Catholic day of observance in honor of saints. But, in the 5th century BC, in Celtic Ireland, summer officially ended on October 31. The holiday was called Samhain (pronounced sow-in), which means "end of summer", the Celtic New year.Did You Know...

A traditional food eaten on Halloween is barnbrack, a kind of fruitcake that can be bought in stores or baked at home. A muslin-wrapped treat is baked inside the cake that, it is said, can foretell the eater's future. If a ring is found, it means that the person will soon be wed; a piece of straw means that a prosperous year is on its way.

Bobbing for Apples: When the Celts were absorbed by the Roman Empire, many rituals of Roman origin began. Among them was the worship of Pomona, goddess of the harvest, often portrayed sitting on a basket of fruits and flowers.

Apples were the sacred fruit of the goddess, and many games of divination involving them entered the Samhain customs.

The Witch's Broomstick: The witch is a central symbol of Halloween. The name comes from the Saxon wica, meaning wise one. When setting out for a Sabbath, witches rubbed a sacred ointment onto their skin. This gave them a feeling of flying, and if they had been fasting they felt even giddier. Some witches rode on horseback, but poor witches went on foot and carried a broom or a pole to aid in vaulting over streams. In England when new witches were initiated they were often blindfolded, smeared with flying ointment and placed on a broomstick. The ointment would confuse the mind, speed up the pulse and numb the feet. When they were told "You are flying over land and sea," the witch took their word for it.

Jack-O-Lanterns:Irish children used to carve out potatoes or turnips and light them for their Halloween gatherings. They commemorated Jack, a shifty Irish villain so wicked that neither God nor the Devil wanted him. Rejected by both the sacred and profane, he wandered the world endlessly looking for a place to rest, his only warmth a glittering candle in a rotten potato. Read about Jack in the 'Legend of the Jack-O-Lantern' short story.

Did You Know...

The Irish Potato Famine (1845-50) prompted over 700,000 people to immigrate to the Americas. These immigrants brought with them their traditions of Halloween and Jack o'Lanterns, but turnips were not as readily available as back home. They found the American pumpkin to be a more than an adequate replacement. Today, the carved pumpkin is perhaps the most famous icon of the holiday.

Halloween Masquerade Mask: From earliest times people wore masks when droughts or other disasters struck. They believed that the demons who had brought their misfortune upon them would become frightened off by the hideous masks. Even after the festival of Samhain had merged with Halloween, Europeans felt uneasy at this time of the year. Food was stored in preparation for the winter and the house was snug and warm. The cold, envious ghosts were outside, and people who went out after dark often wore masks to keep from being recognised.

Pumpkin Facts

In 1584, after French explorer Jacques Cartier explored the St. Lawrence region of North America, he reported finding "gros melons." The name was translated into English as "pompions," which has since evolved into the modern "pumpkin."

arrow Pumpkins have been grown in North America for five thousand years. They are indigenous to the western hemisphere.

arrow Pumpkins are fruits. A pumpkin is a type of squash and is a member of the gourd family (Cucurbitacae), which include squash, cucumbers, gherkins, and melons.

arrow Pumpkin seeds should be planted between the last week of May and the middle of June. They take between 90 and 120 days to grow and are picked in October when they are bright orange in color. Their seeds can be saved to grow new pumpkins the next year.

arrow The largest pumpkin ever grown is 1,810 pounds. It was an Atlantic Giant grown by Chris Stevens of New Richmond, Wi. Stillwater, Minnesota. Record established October 9, 2010.

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Color Symbolism
Black: death, night, witches, black cats, bats, vampires
Orange: pumpkins, jack o' lanterns, Autumn, the turning leaves, fire
Purple: night, the supernatural, mysticism
Green: goblins, monsters
Red: blood, fire, demons, Satan


Source: Halloween is Here! Copyright © 2001-2005 -Halloween is Here!

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