We don't often think about how Halloween got started. A number of people just think people carved pumpkins and dressed up like zombies, ghosts, vampires, and the mummy, and kids go trick-or-treating begging for candy because of that cute Peanuts cartoon.
|Charles Schultz' Peanuts Halloween cartoon|
Many think the creation of the night is purely evil and will have nothing to do with it.
Some think begging for candy by the little tykes is really obnoxious.
I hate miss-informed people, don't you?
This is the first installment of the history of Halloween, (mainly because I've got things to do), but don't miss any because I'm going to do these at least once or twice a week as time allows.
The word "Halloween" is a contraction of of "All Allow Even", an English way of saying the night before All Saints' Day. Sometimes it's even written Hallowe'en. They also called it "Snap Apple Night". It was a festive evening of games, dancing, and storytelling.
From what I could gather the celebrations are a mish-mash of different customs and religious celebrations.
The Celts were the native people of the British Isles, and like most people of that time worshiped their own solar deity. Samhain, or summer's end, was celebrated near the Roman date of October 31st. It probably coincided with the full moon, so the celebration was twofold--one of honoring the sun, thanking it for the harvest and strengthening it for its coming battle with winter. In each village, all house of fires were extinguished and everyone gathered around the sacred center altar to watch as Druid priests put out that fire as well. After a new fire was kindled on the altar, coals were carried to light fires on the hillsides in the sun's honor. More coals from the altar were used to relight household fires for protection against bad luck for the coming year.
The Celts also believed that at year's end, departing souls returned to earth to share a few moments with loved ones. Since not all the dead were nice people in life, the living huddled around those hilltop bonfires seeking shelter from the mean-spirited ghosts.
The Roman Contribution:
And then some of our Halloween customs can also be dated back to the Roman Empire's festival honoring the goddess of fruit, Pamona, and was around November 1st.
You can see how these two festivals intermingled especially after Romans conquered Britain.
Now, let us quickly look at how the Christains contributed:
By the fourth century, when Constantine legalized (yes, legalized) Christianity in the Roman Empire, there were more martyres than there were days of the year. Because they died for their faith, they were considered saints.
You with me so far?
The whole idea of venerating all of these people on a common day caught on in many localities, but the celebrations took place in springtime. At some point "All Saints' Day" was moved to fall for two reasons. Enormous crowds thronged to Rome for the celebration, demanding food. They figured out that they could better feed so many people after the harvest. And It might have also been an attempt to counteract the influence of Druidic practices taking root throughout Christendom. (Yeah, the pagans lost this one, folks.) So, in 835 Pope Gregory IV made the date for All Saints' Day on November 1, and thus its vigil--All Hallow Even--on OCTOBER 31.
I sure hope you enjoyed this first part in my "Hallowe'en, A History". Come back next week when I get into the really scary stuff like Goblins, Ghosts, Witches. . .