The Origins of Halloween

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It’s that time of year again, you know the one where all the kids (and some adults) dress up as ghosts and ghoulies, and walk around the neighbourhood professing “trick or treat”. I have witnessed a fair amount of negativity on social media surrounding this tradition. I would like to give everyone some “food for thought” so here is a short summary of Halloween, and how it evolved over the centuries into what we know it as now.

Halloween has deep Celtic origins, from Ireland, the United Kingdom and Northern France. Traditionally the Celts would celebrate their new year on the 1st of November. It was the end of the harvest, it was a time associated with darkness and death. The Celts believed that on the new year’s eve, known to them as Samhain (pronounced sow-in), was when the boundary between the living and the dead became blurred. When the dead returned to earth in spirit form. They would have bonfires to burn the rotting crops unused from harvests, they would dress up in costumes, tell fortunes, and sacrifice animals to their deities.

Over the centuries these traditions mixed themselves with other cultures and religions. The Romans would celebrate the god Pamona, goddess of fruit and trees on this day. Could this be the origin of bobbing for apples?

In middle English this day was celebrated as All hallow’s mass. Often at this time the poor would dress up, visit houses and ask for food or money in exchange for singing a song, reciting a poem or such.

Halloween was taken to America by the Europeans and in the 1800’s it evolved into a holiday for bringing communities together. Trick or treating and the carving of jack o’lanterns (which originates from the willow the wisp, a flickering phosphorus light seen over marshy land, or a bundle of sticks or paper to make a torch), again of English origin.

Ultimately is a time of fun and tradition, something to break up the dark nights and a reason to get together, dress up and eat sweets. Is it really that offensive? It’s like anything, if you don’t want to participate, that is your choice, but should you really be forcing your views on people who enjoy it? My inner hippy hates the negativity.

I don’t know about you but I’m also looking forward to celebrating the next holiday, the one where we celebrate the ruined attempt to blow up the houses of parliament in the 1600’s…

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