The celebrations of Halloween is right around the corner and yet there are few of us who know the customs and traditions behind this festival except to dress up in Halloween costumes and kids enjoying themselves with trick or treat. But the Halloween 2013 is going to be different as we take a look at the story and customs behind this spooky and exciting festival.
The name Halloween has a Scottish origin and is the short form for “All Hallow’s Eve” i.e. the night before “All Hallow’s Day”; November 1. All Hollows Day or All Saints Day is a Catholic Day to honor the saints. It is said that on this day all laws of space and time were suspended, allowing the spirits of the other world to mingle with the living creatures. But naturally the living didn’t want to be possessed. So on 31 October night everyone would extinguish their fires to make the circumstances unfavorable and cold. After that they would all dress up in scary outfits and make lot of noise to scare the evil spirits away.
By the first century AD, Halloween celebrations was merged with some other Roman traditions in October like the day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple and therefore has its mention in Halloween festival as well. But with time the customs have also become more ritualized. The belief in spirits, ghosts and witches has waned away and the dressing up like goblins, Dracula and witches has become the central point of the festivities.
Halloween found its way in America in 1840s as some Irish immigrants left their country due to potato famine. At that time Halloween was celebrated by tipping over outhouses and unhinging fence gates. But as far the custom of trick or treating goes, it seems to have originated from a ninth century European custom called souling. November 2 was celebrated as All Souls Day with Christians walking from village to village begging for “soul cakes”. These were cakes made from square pieces of bread with currants. The more soul cakes one would receive the more prayers that person would offer for the dead relatives of that family. It was said that a prayer even from strangers would help the soul travel to heaven.
Another famous Halloween custom of Jack-o-lantern most probably has come from Irish folklore. As the Halloween story goes, a man named Jack who was a complete drunkard, tricked Satan into climbing a tree. Jack carved a cross on the tree trunk, trapping the devil in the tree. Jack then made a deal with Satan that if Satan never tried to tempt him again he would let him down the tree. After Jack died, he was denied entrance in heaven because of his bad deeds and he was also denied entrance in hell since he tricked Satan. The devil gave him a single ember to light his way through the complete darkness. This ember was placed inside a hallow turnip to keep it glowing longer. The Irish also used turnips for Jack’s lanterns earlier. But after they immigrated to America they found pumpkins much easily available as compared to turnips and therefore pumpkins started being used.
Today even churches have Halloween celebrations as children take all the delight in making this day filled with fun and excitement. The Halloween party decorations may be spooky and there may be horror movies on the television yet there is nothing evil about this festival anymore. So on this 31st October 2013 make your Halloween exciting and fun and bask in the delight of bonfires, food and drinks. HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!