Friday, 30 October 2015

Happy Halloween!

close-up, food, fruit

Are you ready for Halloween yet? Or so ready for it to be over? Whichever side of the fence you fall on, there's no denying that tomorrow will see doors knocked on, sweets given out, and Halloween parties raging all night!

I'm a little bit of a Halloween lover. I'm actually quite excited this year, and have decorated my house accordingly. I have a big tub of sweeties, too, ready to give out to the local children! So it's only fitting that I write a post all about Halloween!

So, where did Halloween come from? And how did the way we celebrate it evolve?

The origins of Halloween actually date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. The Celts celebrated their new year on November 1st, and believed that the night before was a time when the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead blurred. On the night of October 31st, Samhain was celebrated. The Celts marked the occasion by building huge bonfires, where crops and animals were sacrificed to Celtic gods. During the celebrations, the Celts wore costumes, usually animal heads and skins, and told each others fortunes. Once the celebrations were over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which had been extinguished earlier that day, from the sacred bonfire to protect them during the coming Winter! 

After the Roman Empire conquered the majority of the Celtic territory, two festivals of Roman origin were combined with the traditional Celtic festival of Samhain. One of these Roman festivals was Feralia, a day commemorating the passing of the dead. The second was a day to honour Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. Pomona's symbol was the apple, and the inclusion of this celebration into the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain probably explains the tradition of bobbing for apples; still practiced today!

Early American Halloween practices included 'play parties;' public events held to celebrate the harvest, where stories of the dead were shared, fortunes told, dances danced and songs sung! Ghost stories and mischief making also played a part in early Halloween festivities.

It was the millions of Irish immigrants, flooding to America to escape the potato famine of 1846, that helped popularise the national celebration of Halloween. Irish and English traditions of dressing up in costumes and going door-to-door asking for food or money, what we now know as trick-or-treating, were adopted by the Americans.

The late 1800's saw a move to mould Halloween into a holiday more about community events than about ghosts, mischief and witchcraft. Halloween parties, for children and adults, became the most common way to celebrate the day. Food, games and festive costumes were the focus of these parties. 

Halloween soon became a community-centred holiday, with parades and town-wide parties. As it evolved, the holiday began to be directed mainly at the young. Classroom and home parties were held, and the centuries old practice of trick-or-treating was revived. Which is how we still celebrate Halloween today!

Brown and Black Cat

Halloween superstitions

There are many superstitions we all know; don't cross a black cat, avoid stepping on cracks in the road, and don't walk under ladders. But what about the many obsolete superstitions that many of us have forgotten all about?

- In 18th century Ireland, a matchmaking cook may bury a ring in mashed potatoes on Halloween night, hoping to bring true love to whoever found it.

- In Scotland, eligible young women named a hazelnut for each of her suitors and then tossed the nuts into the fireplace. The nut that burned into ashes, rather than popping or exploding, represented the girl's future husband.

- Young women threw apple peels over their shoulders, hoping the peels would fall on the floor in the shape of their future husband's initials.

- Young women also stood in front of mirrors in a darkened room, holding a candle and looking over their shoulders for a glimpse of their future husband's face.

Whether you love it or hate it, then, Halloween has been around for a long, long time. And it's not going to be going anywhere anytime soon either! 

Will you be celebrating tomorrow? Having, or attending, a party? Taking your little ones trick-or-treating? Handing out sweets to neighbourhood kids? Let me know in the comments!

Happy Halloween!

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