Since this month is October, Halloween month, I decided to write a post about the origin of Halloween.
Halloween, also known as All Hallows' Eve and All Saints Eve, is on the last day of the Celtic calendar, more commonly known as October 31st. This is the night before the festival of Samhain, which occurred on November 1st.
The word Halloween means "hallowed evening" or "holy evening". It originates from a Scottish term for All Hallows' Eve (the evening before All Hallows' Day.) Over time, the word All Hallows' Eve formed into the word we now know today, which is Halloween.
The Celts marked this day as the end of the harvest season to the beginning of winter. They also believed that this day was a gateway to the world of the dead. On this night, people thought that the dead returned as ghosts, so they left food and wine on their doorsteps, to keep roaming spirits at bay. They wore masks when they left their house, so they would be mistaken for fellow ghosts.
On All Souls Day, November 2nd, the poor would go doorstep to doorstep, begging for food. They most commonly received soul cakes, as long as they promised to pray for people's dead relatives. This was called souling. In the medieval Halloween tradition of guising, young people would dress up in costume and accept offerings such as wine, gold, and food in exchange for singing, reciting poetry, and telling jokes. Later, in 19th century America, Irish and Scottish people revised these old traditions, and the result was trick-or-treating. At first, trick-or-treating was much more about the tricks than the treats. It wasn't until the 1950's that the custom took on the family-friendly vibe that it has today.
Now, let's talk about the witch, an iconic Halloween character. Usually, witches are dressed in all black with a pointy hat and green skin. Occasionally, witches have a wart on their nose or are seen with a black cat, bat, or spider. They are also known for their use of flying on brooms over a full moon. Though witches are not just a Halloween symbol. They have a long and interesting history.
Witchcraft has existed across the globe, including in Asian, African, and Native American societies. Long before the study of science, witches were blamed for storms, accidents, disease, and other bad things that happened. In medieval Europe, anywhere between 100,000 and 200,000 people were arrested for suspicion of witchcraft. About half of them were executed (killed). The accused witches were not just women, but men and children too.
Even after the witch hunts, western culture remained fascinated with witches. The fairytales of the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson later inspired L. Frank Baum to create his famous story, The Wizard of Oz, which featured the most famous witch in pop culture, The Wicked Witch of the West. L. Frank Baum didn't intend on making the witch's skin green, but that is how she appeared in the Technicolor film in 1939, and the image stuck. And what about the tall black pointy hats? Upper-class people in the 15th century wore similar hats, and the style later spread to commoners, usually the ones who were accused of witchcraft. The broom, a common household tool was used then for crop fertility, later became a well known symbol of witches, who were said to use their brooms to hide their wands in during the witch hunts. People also believed that witches rubbed a special oil on their brooms to make them fly across the sky and perform magic in the air.
The jack-o-lantern was named after a tale about a man named Jack. Here is the story: " ...the jack-o'-lantern actually took its name from a roguish Irishman known asStingy Jack, who tricked the Devil into promising him that he wouldn't go to hell for his many, many sins. When Jack died, however, he found to his dismay that he had also been barred from heaven, so he went down below, banged on the gates of hell, and demanded his due from the Devil. Wouldn't you know it, though the latter did keep his promise to save Jack from going to hell, he did so by dooming him to wander the earth for all eternity with only an ember of hellfire to light his way. Thenceforth, according to the legend, Stingy Jack was known by the name of Jack O' Lantern." I don't have much more history about the pumpkin, so I must stop here for the pumpkin.
The Colors Orange and Black
Have you ever wondered why our Halloween colors are orange and black? Well, here is the answer. The color orange was taken from harvest season for the Celtics. This is one of the most prominent colors in the fall colors. Black was taken from death, which is usually represented by a very dark color. These two colors combined have a very symbolic meaning.
That is what I have wrote on the origin of Halloween, and I hope you found it very interesting!
What was the part that you found most interesting?
Do you have any information on the origin of Halloween?
What are you dressing up as for Halloween?