Halloween’s Origins

PJ Martin, Office/News Reporter, Metcalfe Division

 

Every year children begin dreaming of candy and struggle to decide upon who/what to dress up as for Halloween. The holiday has several traditions, but did you ever wonder where some of them came from?

I did a little research and found some interesting history.

Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain which means summers end. The Celts lived around 2,000 years ago in the areas we now call Ireland, the United Kingdom, and parts of France. During the festival, people gathered around a large bonfire and dressed in costume to ward off roaming ghosts. They believed the veil between the living and the dead was thinnest on that date.

Along came the Romans who celebrated Feralia around the same time of year to commemorate the passing of the dead. They also held a celebration to Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The apple represents Pomona so it is believed the tradition of bobbing for apple came from this celebration.

Add to those festivals the 7th-century churches’ All Souls’ Day which was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (All Saints’ Day). That eventually morphed into All-Hallows Eve and, eventually became what we call Halloween.

It is thought by some historians that trick or treating is a result of the Celtic practice of leaving food and wine out for the roaming spirits. This was thought to prevent the spirits from causing trouble or playing tricks on their relatives. During All Souls Day in England, the poor would go door to door and be given ‘soul cakes’ in return for prayers for the family’s deceased relatives.

Black cats got a bad reputation sometime around the Middle Ages when they were associated with Satan, witches, and witchcraft. They became connected to Halloween because they were believed to be cohorts of witches. Some even thought they were witches who had taken on another form.

The original of the Jack O’ Lantern is not really clear. It was not a pumpkin, to begin with, but a turnip. Pumpkins did not exist in Ireland. Ancient Celtic cultures in Ireland carved turnips on All Hallow’s Eve, and placed an ember in them, to ward off evil spirits.

 

Jack O’ Lantern was also used to refer to a man with a lantern such as a night watchman. The generic name Jack was used when the night watchman’s given name was not known. Yet another story involves a man called Stingy Jack and is an old Irish legend. You can read the entire story at https://www.history.com/topics/halloween/jack-olantern-history.

Happy Halloween!

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