Sunday, October 30, 2011

Some Halloween Trivia


·         Halloween has its origins in the Celtic festival of Samhain, a word meaning “summer’s end”.  The festival marked the end of the harvest, the end of the “lighter half” of the year and the beginning of the “darker half”.  Celebrated over several days, it had elements of the Festival of the Dead, a festival to honour or recognise deceased members of the community.  Bonfires were a large part of the festivities and people and their livestock often walked between two fires as a cleansing ritual. 

·         The word Halloween is a Scottish variant of All Hallows Even (“evening”), the night before All Hallows Day.  For those younger readers who think that the origin is associated with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the word “hallows” comes from the Gothic word “hailag” meaning holy. All Hallows Day, also known as All Saints Day, honours the saints, both known and unknown.

·         In 601AD Pope Gregory instructed his priests to incorporate local practices and celebrations into Christian practice and belief when seeking to convert pagans to Christianity, rather than seek to remove them entirely. Smart man.  Accordingly All Saints Day was listed for 1 November, the day following Samhain, as a means of countering the influence of that pagan festival.

Whereas Samhrain had recognised both good and evil spirits in its rituals, the missionaries preached that the spirits of Samhain were all evil and that those who worshipped tem were devil worshippers.  As a result Halloween became associated with evil spirits and the following day, the Christian celebratory day, was associated with the Saints.

Although the old beliefs continued, the nature of the celebrations changed.  The worshippers now used the day to ward off evil spirits. The day became associated with witches, demons and fairies.

·         Orange and black are Halloween colours because orange is associated with the autimn harvest and black is associated with darkness and death.

·         Jack o’ Lanterns originated in Ireland where people placed candles in hollowed-out turnips to keep away spirits and ghosts on the Samhain holiday.

·         Halloween was brought to North America by immigrants from Europe who would celebrate the harvest around a bonfire, share ghost stories, sing, dance and tell fortunes.\

·         The ancient Celts thought that spirits and ghosts roamed the countryside on Halloween night. They began wearing masks and costumes to avoid being recognised as human.

·         Black cats were once believed to be witch's familiars who protected their powers.

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