Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Meaning of Halloween: Why is Halloween celebrated?

This week the Halloween spirit is near already to be celebrated with little ghosts and goblins in the streets asking for candy and scaring one another. People make fires to tell spooky stories, go to cinemas to watch scary movies and decorate houses with pumpkins carved into jack-o’-lanterns.

But Halloween is not what we see commercialized and celebrated. Halloween is much more than fancy and creative costumes, decorations; the  holiday has a rich and interesting history.

Celtic Festival of Samhain

As the Encyclopedia Britannica states,

In ancient Britain and Ireland, the Celtic Festival of Samhain was observed on October 31, at the end of summer…. 
The souls of the dead were supposed to revisit their homes on this day and the autumnal festival acquired sinister significance, with ghosts, witches, goblins, black cats, fairies and demons of all kinds said to be roaming about. It was the time to placate the supernatural powers controlling the processes of nature. In addition, Halloween was thought to be the most favorable time for divinations concerning marriage, luck, health, and death. It was the only day on which the help of the devil was invoked for such purposes.

The current Halloween practice, costumes and symbols have undergone significant change throughout history due to the Western culture. However, in early America Halloween was not celebrated as America had strong Christian roots. It is believed that in small Irish settlement people celebrated Halloween; because of the potato famine, many Irish people migrated to America taking with them their costumes.

Today’s Halloween is an Irish holiday at some point, with its origins going back to the Celtic winter festival. America witnessed a national spiritual rise in 1848  which spread the popularity of Halloween as well.

Interesting Halloween Facts

Celebrated with fireworks, Halloween is established as a national holiday in Ireland and on this day children are released from school for the week.

Witches put candles into skulls to light the way to coven meetings; carved pumpkins may have originated from the skull collection of witches.

People wore masks and scary costumes to frighten away the evil ghosts or to hide from them.

A special banquet table was set outdoors for the spirit of dead people to come over, after which people wearing their costumes tried to lead ghosts away.
Besides the scary costumes, people had light with them with a purpose of frightening and leading away the spirits of dead people.

Halloween masks and costumes may have originated from Celtic Druid traditions, when they wore animal heads and skins to acquire the power of the animal during ceremonies.

Through costumes, it was possible for people to change their personality and get into the spiritual world.

As a catholic legend goes, churches that did not have relics, they prepared a parade
where parishioners dressed as the patron saints; others dressed as angels or devils.

The tradition when people go from door to door may have originated from the Druid process of bagging material for the bonfire.

People, fearing the tricks of witches, prepared special ‘treating’ (food) for them. Otherwise, they believed that terrible things might happen to them.

It was a day of humor and fear…later on people turned this tradition into making tricks on other people, making jokes and harming others, and only witches and ghosts were blamed for that.  

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