By Amy Jackson
Are you listening? Do you believe? People say the unknown is best left that way. Maybe they were wrong. Sometimes, we just have to know the truth. They say on Halloween the last night of the Hunter’s moon we (the living) are not alone. . . . . . . . If we are not alone, who’s out there?
The soul of Halloween dates back to the antique Celtic festival Samhain (pronounced sow-in). Two millennia ago, the Celts lived in present day Ireland, Great Britain, and northern France. These people were highly superstitious. They honored their new year on November 1. The celebration of their new year marked the fading of summer and the materializing of the cruel winter. Winters in Celtic lands were often coupled with death. The Celts believed that on the night before their New Year, the worlds of the living and the dead crashed into each other allowing the dead to past into the living realm. Samhain was celebrated on October 31, when it was thought ghosts of the dead returned from the grave. Celts believed that spirits caused crop damage. On this night the Celts also believed the Druids (Celtic Priests) could make predictions about the future.
The Druids built huge revered bonfires and the people would gather, and offer sacrifices (like crops and animals) to their fiery gods. The people wore costumes made of animal skins and heads during Samhain. They would try to predict one another’s future. When the merrymaking ended, they would return home and relight their hearth fires with a flame from the sacred bonfire. This was done to ward off evil as well as to guard them during the approaching winter. Most of the Celtic lands, by 43 A.D., had been conquered by the Romans. During the course of the four hundred years, the Romans ruled two of their festivals were combined with Samhain. One of these Roman festivals was Feralia. Feralia was celebrated in late October to offer honor to the dead. The second was the festival that honored Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. Pomona’s symbol was the apple hence the game of bobbing for apples used in modern Halloween festivities.
In the 800s, Christianity had spread throughout Celtic lands. During the seventh century, Pope Boniface IV declared November 1 All Saints’ Day, a day to honor martyrs and saints. Many have speculated that the pope was trying to replace the celebration of the dead with a related church approved holiday. All Saints Day was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas and the night before was called All Hallow’s Eve which would eventually gain the name Halloween. In 1000 A.D., the church would make November 2 All Soul’s Day which was used to honor the dead. Its celebration was closely tied to Samhain. These three holidays were known as Hallowmas.
When European immigrants came to America in the 17th and 18th centuries, they brought with them their Halloween rituals. Due to severe Protestant influence, Halloween celebrations were restricted in New England areas. However, in Maryland and the southern colonies, Halloween was very popular. The traditions of the Europeans and Native Americans melded together and made the American Halloween. During the latter half of the 19th century, Irish immigrants fleeing the potato famine settled in America. The Irish helped popularize the holiday. Because of English and Irish tradition, Americans began to dress up and go door to door for money or food. This practice became known as trick-or-treat. Some old Halloween superstitions are now dead. It was thought on Halloween a young woman would learn the name or appearance of her husband to be by performing little tricks. By the late 1800s, Halloween had become a community holiday. It was during the turn of the century that Halloween parties for adults and children appeared. These particular parties focused on games, food, and costumes. However, newspapers and community leaders encouraged parents to remove the frightening elements of Halloween. Due to this, Halloween lost its religious and superstitious air.
By the 1920s and 30s, Halloween had become a community holiday with parties and parades. Vandalism also began to haunt Halloween celebrations in many communities. Halloween transformed into a holiday directed towards the youth. Because of the fifties baby boom era, parties moved from civic centers to the home and classrooms. During 1920s and 1950s, trick-or-treating was revived. Adults believed that by giving the children treats, the tricks would stop. A new tradition had begun. It is estimated that $6.9 billion is spent annually on Halloween. This makes Halloween America’s second largest holiday.
Ladies however, be for warned. The witching hour begins at midnight. Some say that’s when the ghosts and other night creatures rise from their graves hoping to find a soul to steal.