Saturday, October 18, 2008


Around the eighth century, the Christian church made November 1 All Saints' Day to honor all of the saints that didn't have a special day of their own. The mass held on All Saints' Day was called All Hallowmas (the mass of all Hallows -- saintly people). The night before was known as All Hallows Eve. Eventually this name became Halloween.

In the 5th century BC, in Celtic Ireland, summer officially ended on October 31. The holiday was called Samhain , the Celtic New year. On that day, the disembodied spirits of all those who had died throughout the preceding year would come back in search of living bodies to possess for the next year. It was believed to be their only hope for the afterlife. The Celts believed all laws of space and time were suspended during this time, allowing the spirit world to intermingle with the living. Naturally, the living did not want to be possessed, so on the night of October 31, the villagers would extinguish the fires in their homes, to make them cold and undesirable. They would then dress up in and parade around the neighborhood, being as destructive as possible in order to frighten away spirits looking for bodies to possess.

The custom of Halloween was brought to America in the 1840's by Irish immigrants fleeing their country's potato famine. At that time, the favorite pranks in New England included tipping over outhouses and unhinging fence gates.

The custom of trick-or-treating is thought to have originated with a ninth-century European custom called souling. On November 2, All Souls Day, early Christians would walk from village to village begging for "soul cakes," made out of square pieces of bread with currants. The more soul cakes the beggars would receive, the more prayers they would promise to say on behalf of the dead relatives of the donors. At the time, it was believed that the dead remained in limbo for a time after death, and that prayer, even by strangers, could expedite a soul's passage to heaven. The Jack-o-lantern custom probably comes from Irish folklore. As the tale is told, a man named Jack, who was notorious as a drunkard and trickster, tricked Satan into climbing a tree. Jack then carved an image of a cross in the tree's trunk, trapping the devil up the tree. Jack made a deal with the devil that, if he would never tempt him again, he would promise to let him down the tree.

According to the folk tale, after Jack died, he was denied entrance to Heaven because of his evil ways, but he was also denied access to Hell because he had tricked the devil. Instead, the devil gave him a single ember to light his way through the frigid darkness. The ember was placed inside a hollowed-out turnip to keep it glowing longer. The Irish used turnips as their "Jack's lanterns" originally. But when the immigrants came to America, they found that pumpkins were far more plentiful than turnips. So the Jack-O-Lantern in America was a hollowed-out pumpkin, lit with an ember.

Many people view Halloween as a time of innocent fun. Children love to dress up as their favorite characters. They will go door to door saying the infamous words "trick or treat". Many adults also love Halloween, because it gives them a chance to let loose and act silly. Every year in the U.S.A. alone, millions of dollars are spent on Halloween goods. Halloween is the second highest grossing money maker outside of Christmas. The promotion of Halloween by the television moguls, the advertisers, and not to mention the blockbuster sales of movies and rentals this time of year. Everyone can see Halloween is big business. Allot of people do not see the harm in all of this Halloween hoopla. But yes, there is a darker side to Halloween than anyone dares to imagine.

Unlike our modern-day Halloween, theirs was not a children's holiday. The Celts and their priests, the Druids, from Great Britain and Ireland. They celebrated "SAMHAIN". It was a festival that marked the eve of the Celtic New Year, which began on November 1. The fall harvest was complete and winter was looming ahead. The Celts believed the sun was fading away, at this time of the year. For the next several months, darkness prevailed. The Celts believed that during "Samhain" the veil separating life from death was at its thinnest. On the evening of October 31, the evil spirits and souls of the dead passed through the barrier and visited the world of the living. The Celts believed these spirits could cause all kind of havoc. They also believed that they could talk with the dead, departed loved ones and such. They also believed that they could Devine the future. The powers of darkness were conjured up on "Samhain". The Devil himself, would be called upon to foretell of future events.

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