Sunday, October 25, 2009

Halloween's Ancient Origins

The roots of Halloween date back thousands of years to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in, rhymes with cow). The Celts lived in what is now Ireland, United Kingdom, and northern France. They celebrated their new year on November 1, the day marking the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark winter which was a time associated with death. They believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, a time when they believed the ghosts of the dead returned to earth.

To commemorate the event, the Druids (Celtic priests) built large sacred bonfires where the people made sacrifices to the Celtic deities. During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes. When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the winter.

By 43A.D., the Romans had conquered most of the Celtic home land. During the next four hundred years, the Roman festivals of Feralia and Pomoma were combined with the traditional celebration of Samhain. In the seventh century, Pope Boniface IV declared November 1 to be All Saints' Day. It's now believed that the pope was trying to replace the Celtic festival with a church sanctioned holiday. The celebration was also called All-hallows. So, the night before it, the night of Samhain, was called All-hallows Eve.

In 1000A.D., the church declared November 2 All Souls' Day, a day to honor the dead. It was celebrated similarly to Samhain with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes. Together the three celebrations—the eve of All Saints', All Saints', and All Souls'—were called Hallowmas and eventually Halloween.

Halloween has always been a holiday filled with mystery, magic and superstition. It began as a Celtic end-of-summer festival during which people felt especially close to deceased relatives and friends. They set places at the table and left treats on doorsteps for these friendly spirits. They also lit candles to help their loved ones find their way back to the spirit world. Today's Halloween ghosts are usually depicted as scarier, as are our customs and superstitions.

Do you have a favorite costume this year? Are you planning to go to a party? Leave me a comment about your Halloween plans.


Autumn Jordon said...

Oh, I love Halloween. Who or what do I want to be? Hmmm ..Growing up, I watched Bewitched. Loved Samantha, but Sabrina always intrigued me. Bad girl with the world at her feet and just having a ball. So this year, I want to be Sabrina with just as much attitude.

Nice blog place.


Samantha Gentry said...

AJ: With your name being Autumn, is it any wonder that you love Halloween? :)

Yep, between Samantha and her sister Sabrina it definitely seemed as if Sabrina was the one having all the fun while Samantha stayed home and tried to do everything without using her witchcraft. If I could twitch my nose and have what I wanted, I think that's pretty much what I'd do. :)

Thanks for stopping by. Hope to see you again.

Sylvie said...

I especially like the part where they set places at the table and left treats on doorsteps for friendly spirits. Makes sense and ties in with our Halloween traditions...thanks for sharing!

Me...I'm going to gawk at all the great costumes :)


Samantha Gentry said...

Hi, Sylvie. I think that costume I want to gawk at is the guy who's dressed as the Chippendale dancer! :)

Saroya said...

Excellent, thank you

Samantha Gentry said...

Hi, Saroya. Thanks for stopping by.

Crystal Kauffman said...

I'm an absolute chicken when it comes to horror movies so Halloween is the only time I'll let myself watch one. I still haven't decided which one I'll watch this year, though.

Samantha Gentry said...

Crystal: There are so many. If there's nothing playing in current release in the theaters or being shown on television, you can always rent a long time favorite.