Thanksgiving Football shopping pumpkin pie fall leaves turkey dinner Family pilgrims blessings cornucopia peace love thankful
Thanksgiving Football shopping pumpkin pie fall leaves turkey dinner Family pilgrims blessings cornucopia peace love thankful
Thanksgiving Football shopping pumpkin pie fall leaves turkey dinner Family pilgrims blessings cornucopia peace love thankful
Thanksgiving Football shopping pumpkin pie fall leaves turkey dinner Family pilgrims blessings cornucopia peace love thankful
Thanksgiving Football shopping pumpkin pie fall leaves turkey dinner Family pilgrims blessings cornucopia peace love thankful
Thanksgiving Football shopping pumpkin pie fall leaves turkey dinner Family pilgrims blessings cornucopia peace love thankful
Thanksgiving Football shopping pumpkin pie fall leaves turkey dinner Family pilgrims blessings cornucopia peace love thankful
Thanksgiving Football shopping pumpkin pie fall leaves turkey dinner Family pilgrims blessings cornucopia peace love thankful
Thanksgiving Football shopping pumpkin pie fall leaves turkey dinner Family pilgrims blessings cornucopia peace love thankful

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Thursday December 14th 2017
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Halloween

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kids dressed up for halloween

Halloween circa 1988

October 31 is right around the corner.  What is so special about this day?  Halloween.  Today, Halloween is largely a children’s holiday but it comes from very religious roots.  The ancient Celtic, Catholic and Roman religions brought about the start of celebrating this day.  In time, European folk traditions were added to the mix to create the holiday we have come to know this day.  It is a day filled with celebrations and superstitions.  The day many have long thought the dead return to roam the earth.

Today it is all about costumes and candy but did you ever wonder where Halloween came from?  Here is a brief history on the holiday known as Halloween.

Halloween’s Roots

The Celtic Beginning

Halloween dates back over 2,000 years.  It originated with the Celts.  These people lived 2,000 years ago in what we know today as Ireland, the United Kingdom and parts of northern France.  For the Celts, the year revolved around the harvest.  November 1 was celebrated as the start of the new year, the day that marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the cold barren winter.  The summer was thought of as a time of prosperity but the winter was a time of famine and death.  The Celts believed the eve before the new year was a time of confusion.  A time when the worlds of the living and the dead crossed.  Troublesome spirits would roam the earth destroying crops and bringing mayhem to the living.  This was the night the Druids, priest of the Celts, could communicate with otherworldly spirits.

On the eve of October 31, the Celts would celebrate the festival of Samhain to ward of the spirits who returned to roam the earth and aid the Druids in talking to otherworldly spirits to make predictions about the future.  On this night, the Celtic people would extinguish the hearths at home and the Druids would build huge sacred bonfires.  The Celts wore costumes made from animals heads and skins and made sacrifices of crops and animal to the Celtic deities.  When the festival was over, the Celts would re-light their hearths with a flame from the sacred bonfire.  The celebration was meant to ward off the dead who returned and appease the Celtic deities in hopes of a easy winter and prosperous new year.

The Roman Influence

In later years around A.D. 43, the Romans conquered a majority of the Celtic territory.  During the Romans four hundred year reign over the Celtic territory the Roman influence emerged.  The Romans would incorporate two of their own festivals with the Celtic festival of Samhain.

The Romans celebrated Feralia, a day in the later part of October, to commemorate the passing of the dead.  The Romans, being reliant on the harvest as well, would also hold a day in honor to the Roman goddess of fruit and tress, Pomona.  In time, the Romans combined their two festivals with the Celtic festival of Samhain.  The Goddess Pomona, seeing over the fruit and trees, had been given a symbol and that was of the apple.  Which is believed to explain the tradition of “bobbing” for apples that is commonly practiced and associated with Halloween to this day.

Christianity

By the seventh century, Christianity had come and spread across the Celtic lands.  The Church, in an effort to replace pagan festivals with church sanctioned holidays, named November 1 as All Saints Day.  Pope Boniface IV designated All Saints Day as a day to honor saints and martyrs.  The church sanctioned festival was called All-hallows from the Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saint’s Day.  The eve before, October 31, began to be called All-hallows Eve.

It would be another 200 years before Halloween becomes the official name.  In A.D. 1000, the church would make November 2 All Souls Day to honor the dead.  This replaced the festival of Samhain completely and was celebrated in similar fashion.  The costumes changed from animal heads and skins to costumes of saints, angels and devils.  The sacred bonfires remained and parades were incorporated in the celebration.  By this time, all three celebrations, the eve of All Saints, All Saints and All Souls were called Hallomas and soon thereafter, Halloween.

Halloween Arrives in the United States

Only in America could we take ancient religious festivals and European folklore and turn it into a commodity.

When European immigrants came to America they brought their Halloween customs with them.  Religion was different in America.  Instead of a Roman Catholic belief system, a Protestant belief system was in place in colonial times.  Halloween was not welcome among the Protestant Church.  There was a divide between the north and the south.  The southern colonies were not as rigid in their beliefs and welcomed Halloween.

The European customs from all different ethnic background meshed with American Indian customs and the American version of Halloween began.  It was less about religion and more about community.  The Halloween festival would bring the community together.  It was a time to celebrate the harvest, share stories of the recently dead and departed, and dance and sing.  The stories of the dead and departed scared the children and became what we know today as “ghost stories”.  Children began to play pranks and act in mischievous ways.  Halloween was still, at this time, primarily celebrated in the southern colonies.

It wouldn’t be until the second half of the nineteenth century that Halloween became a national celebration.  During this time, there was a great immigration of the Irish to America.  The Irish immigrants predominantly settled in the north bringing with them their celebration of Halloween helping to make Halloween popular throughout the north.  The tradition of dressing in costume also became more predominant during this period.  In order to appease the church the separation of the celebration of Halloween from a religious celebration to a secular celebration began.  The community became key and instead of speaking of the dead, otherworldly spirits and celebrating the harvest it became about giving.  People would dress in costumes and go house to house asking for food or money.  This would eventually grow into what we know as trick or treating today.

In the late 1800s, Halloween was turned into a holiday that was marked with parties and celebrations by adults and children.  Community and church leaders did their best to do away with any superstitious or religious meaning to the holiday.  The practice of going house to house asking for food or money was done away with.  Pranks had grown out control and community leaders wanted to end Halloween as it had been and make it into something new.  The effort to remove the dead, ghost stories, witchcraft, otherworldly spirits and anything frightening or grotesque from the holiday was intense.  It was promoted as a time to celebrate the community.  Parades and town-wide celebrations were planned to lead the direction the community leaders and the church wanted Halloween to go.

During the 1920s the sheer number of families and children hampered many communities from hold community oriented parades and parties to celebrate Halloween.  The practice of going house to house was revived only this time a little different.  Now it would be only children who went from house to house and they would ask for candy or some form of a treat.  This was a more economical way for the whole community to participate in Halloween.  Children were costumed and homes were decorated.  Ghost, witches and other frightening spirits made their return.  Children wanted to be scared on Halloween.  As kids are what they are, homes that did not provide them with a treat had pranks played on them.  Adults soon learned they had a choice trick or treat.  Trick or treating was a new American tradition that survives to this day.

Halloween as we know it today

Halloween is no longer revered as the religious holiday it once was.  Halloween is celebrated by adults and children alike but it is now considered predominantly a children’s holiday.  With the practice of trick or treating it is estimated that Americans spend 7 billion dollars on Halloween each year.  More candy is sold for the holiday of Halloween than any other time of the year.  Halloween is the only other holiday that houses are decorated in great fashion for the community, Christmas being the main holiday.

Beware all, ghost and goblins will make their return.  The dead return to walk the earth and torment the living.  Beware of witches and their little black cats.  Get your scariest costume ready to ward off evil spirits that roam through the night as Halloween is just around the corner.
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