Halloween 2016 has become less about literal ghosts and ghouls and more about costumes and candy. The Celts used the day to mark the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter, and also believed that this transition between the seasons was a bridge to the world of the dead. Over the millennia the holiday transitioned from a somber pagan ritual to a day of merriment, costumes, parades and sweet treats for children and adults.
Halloween 2016: History
Halloween is a holiday celebrated on the night of October 31, usually by children dressing in costumes and going door-to-door collecting candy. It is celebrated in much of the Western world, though most commonly in the United States, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, Canada and sometimes in Australia and New Zealand. Irish, Scots and other immigrants brought older versions of the tradition to North America in the 19th century. Most other Western countries have embraced Halloween as a part of American pop culture in the late 20th century.
The term “Halloween” derives from Hallowe’en, an old contraction, still retained in Scotland and some parts of Canada, of “All Hallow’s Eve,” so called as it is the day before All Saints day (observed by some Christians, including Roman Catholics), which used to be called “All Hallows,” derived from All Hallowed Souls.
In Ireland, the name was Hallow Eve and this name is still used by some older people. Halloween was formerly also sometimes called All Saints’ Eve. The holiday was a day of religious festivities in various northern European pagan traditions, until it was appropriated by Christian missionaries (along with Christmas and Easter, two other traditional northern European pagan holidays) and given a Christian reinterpretation.
In Mexico, All Saint’s Day, following Halloween, is the Day of the Dead.
Halloween 2016: “Pooky Night”
Halloween is also called “Pooky Night” in some parts of Ireland, presumably named after the puca, a mischievous spirit.
“Punkie Night” is observed on the last Thursday in October in the village of Hinton St. George in the county of Somerset in England. On this night, children carry lanterns made from hollowed-out mangel-wurzels (a kind of beet; in modern days, pumpkins are used) with faces carved into them. They bring these around the village, collecting money and singing the punkie song. ‘Punkie’ is derived from ‘pumpkin’ or ‘punk,’ meaning ‘tinder.’
Though the custom is only attested over the last century, and the mangel-wurzel itself was introduced into English agriculture in the late 18th century, “Punkie Night” appears to be much older even than the fable that now accounts for it. The story goes that the wives of Hinton St. George went looking for their wayward husbands at the fair held nearby at Chiselborough, the last Thursday in October, but first hollowed out mangel wurzels in order to make lanterns to light their way. The drunken husbands saw the eerie lights, thought they were “goolies” (the restless spirits of children who had died before they were baptized), and fled in terror. Children carry the punkies now. The event has spread since about 1960 to the neighboring village of Chiselborough.
In the United Kingdom, the pagan Celts celebrated the Day of the Dead on Halloween. The spirits supposedly rose from the dead and, in order to attract them, food was left on the doors. To scare off the evil spirits, the Celts wore masks. When the Romans invaded Britain, they embellished the tradition with their own, which is the celebration of the harvest and honoring the dead.
These traditions were then passed on to the United States. Anoka, Minnesota, USA, the self-proclaimed “Halloween Capital of the World,” celebrates with a large civic parade.
Halloween is sometimes associated with the occult. Many European cultural traditions hold that Halloween is one of the “liminal” times of the year when the spirit world can make contact with the natural world and when magic is most potent.
Halloween 2016: 10 Things You Need To Know
- Halloween is one of the oldest celebrations in the world dating back over to 5th century BC, to the Celtic celebration of the dead. A Celtic festival was held on November 1, the first day of the Celtic New Year. The holiday was called Samhain (sow-en).
- When Christianity spread in to Europe, November 1 became All Saints Day, a day dedicated to all the saints that didn’t have a special day of their own. A special mass called on Nov 1st was called “All hallows Mass”. The evening before became known as, “All Hallows E’ene” eventually Hallowe’en then finally, Halloween.
- The tradition of wearing masks on Halloween came from the celtic tradition that believed that the dead visited the living on October 31st and masks were intended to keep the spirits from recognizing the living!
- Halloween is the second most successful commercial holiday after Christmas
- Halloween was brought to North America by immigrants from Europe who would celebrate the harvest around a bonfire, share ghost stories, sing,s dance and tell fortunes.
- The act of trick-or-treating is thought to have originated not with the Irish Celts, but with a ninth-century Christian European custom called “souling”. On November 1st, 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.
- Yes, we all know that Jack-o-lanterns originated in Ireland and were hollowed out turnips with candles placed in them to keep spirits away on that holiday.
- BUT did you know that the Jack-o-lantern custom is thought to come from Irish folklore?. As the tale is told, a man named Jack, who was notorious as a drunkard and trickster, tricked Satan into climbing a tree. Jack then carved an image of a cross in the tree’s trunk, trapping the devil up the tree. Jack made a deal with the devil that, if he would never tempt him again, he would promise to let him down the tree. According to the folk tale, after Jack died, he was denied entrance to Heaven because of his evil ways, but he was also denied access to Hell because he had tricked the devil. Instead, the devil gave him a single ember to light his way through the frigid darkness.