I know it’s only September, but Halloween is on my mind. It is one of those holidays that is actually fun. Not much stress involved, but loads of fun for the taking. I thought for today I would go back and do a series on customs and such that are a big part in making up the event, as we know it today.
The original source of our Halloween came from pagan tradition. Yes, there are some that believe the Christian celebration of Halloween was first, from what I can tell, the Pagans have them beat. These pagan festivals honored the gods of fruits, such as the Roman Pomona. Not so much scary in that and reminds me of the Celtic festivals. Another pagan tradition is the festival of Parentalia, which is believed to honor the deceased.
This brings me to the Celtics, who had the festival of Samhain. This marked the end of summer and the harvest. They held bonfires, which were to provide light for those bringing in livestock from the fields or mountains to be slaughtered for winter. The Celts believe that on Samhain, the door to the underworld would open, letting in spirits, both good and bad. They would have a great feast that would include them setting a place for any deceased relatives, just in case they came to visit on that day. The bad and the evil spirits entered the earthly realm as well on this day. The people would dress up in costumes, in order to confuse the evil spirits. This custom later entailed visiting houses while in costume, to collect food for the feast. Sound familiar?
Other legends associated with Samhain, are due to the belief that the underworld opened on that day. Such as the idea and belief that body parts of those who had died during the last year would become animated on that day, and could possess the living. Many Celtics would also extinguish all lights and fires inside of their homes, so that it was purposely very cold and dark. Therefore, spirits would not be drawn there.
This brings me to Pumpkins. They were carved in order to light the paths at night and protect people from the evil spirits. The carved pumpkin’s namesake, Jack-o-lantern, comes from the legend of a boy named Jack, who paraded through town with a pumpkin in which he’d trapped the devil. The devil then cursed Jack upon his release and condemned him to spend forever in hell. Thereafter, when the gates open on Halloween, Jack would escape from Hell and wreak havoc upon the town. The Jack-o-Lanterns were supposed to trick Jack into thinking they held the devil in them, and scare him off. This is a new one for me. I didn’t know the origin of the Jack-o-Lantern.
To be continued….