Written By Amber
Records suggest it was Pope Gregory III that designated November 1 as a time to honour all saints and martyrs; the holiday, All Saints’ Day or All souls day, incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows’ Eve and later Halloween.
The Pre-Christian Celtic festival Samhain was used by the Celts to mark the end of the harvest season and the start of the winter. They also believed that this changing of the seasons was a bridge between our World and the World of the Dead, according to folklorist John Santino.
That said a direct connection between Halloween and Samhain has never been proven. Many scholars believe that because they are close together on the calendar, they influenced each other and later merged into the celebration now called Halloween.
Samhain is a Gaelic word which means “summer’s end.”
Facts and mysteries behind the celebration of Halloween
Halloween is a time of celebration and superstition. People would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts. By the late 1800s, the tradition of playing tricks on Halloween was well established.
Halloween was as much a time of celebration and superstition as it was for playing tricks or asking for treats.
The celebration of Halloween offers a safe way to play with the idea of death and of a bridge between our World and the World of the Dead. People dress up in freaky costumes such as the living dead, and fake gravestones decorate front lawns.
The tradition of dressing in costumes and knocking door to door some believe relates back to Medieval times to the custom of “Souling”, when poor people would adorn costumes on all souls day November 1st and knock on doors offering prayers for the dead in exchange for food.
The modern acts of trick or treating some believe is borrowed from “Guising” which is still practised by children in some parts of Scotland.
Guising involves dressing in costumes and singing a song, rhyme, performing some kind of card trick, or telling a story in exchange for a sweet.
This form of trick or treating was introduced by the Scottish and Irish to America in the 19th century.
These days the trick part of the phrase is mostly an empty threat, but pranks have long been a part of this celebration.
Apples have always been associated with the celebration of Halloween, both as a treat and also as a game called apple bobbing. A water filled bucket would have apples placed in it, the first person to pluck an apple using only their teeth was said to be the first to marry.
Another tale involving apples tells us that a young girl would peel the apple in one long continuous strip. She would then toss this strip of peel over her shoulder the peel would supposedly fall into the shape of the letter of the man she would marry.
Another Halloween practise involved looking into a mirror at midnight by candlelight for a future husbands face to appear. It was from this the ritual familiar to many schoolgirls called “Bloody Mary” started.
Through history various supernatural entities have been associated with the celebration of Halloween including witches and fairies. In Ireland over a century ago Halloween was considered a time when you were able to see the spirits of the dead when they returned to their old haunting grounds.
Dressing up as ghosts and witches became fashionable during Halloween, but as the holiday became commercialised other costumes were to become mass produced too, you can now choose from a wide variety of costumes including monsters and princesses!
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