Each year as autumn paints the earth amber, the spooky season bestows excitement and joyousness upon us. This chilling fall breeze amalgamated with the warmth of hot cocoa, welcomes the spookiest fete of all, Halloween. Celebrated worldwide, this western originated festival, today has evolved as one of the most popular and acknowledged festivals. This contemporary yet fun fest holds a treasure of history.
Halloween celebrations are observed in a number of countries on 31 October, the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows’ Day. It marks the commencement of the three-day observance of All hallow tide, the time in the liturgical year dedicated to reminiscent of the dead, including saints, martyrs, and all the faithful departed. It is widely believed that many Halloween traditions originated from ancient Celtic harvest festivals, particularly the Gaelic festival Samhain and the Brythonic festival Calan Gaeaf.
Halloween celebrations were established over two thousand years ago in Celtic Ireland by farmers. Initially, the Halloween festival was known as Samhain by the Celtic farmers which meant ‘end of summer’. It was done to bid farewell to the summer season and hope for a productive winter. According to the legendary myths, Celts believed that October 31st was the specific day when the season of death came into contact with life season, and thus, allowed dead spirits to rise among the living.
By 43 A.D., the Roman Empire had conquered the majority of Celtic territory. In the course of the 400 years of rule on the Celtic lands, two festivals of Roman origin were combined with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain. First was Feralia, a day in late October when the Romans traditionally commemorated the passing of the dead, and the second was the day to honour Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. Symbolizing Pomona, apples were incorporated in this celebration into Samhain, which probably explains the tradition of bobbing for caramel apples practised today on Halloween.
Colonial Halloween festivities also featured the telling of ghost stories and mischief-making of all kinds. Later, the new immigrants, especially the millions of Irish fleeing the Irish Potato Famine, helped to popularize the celebration of Halloween in America nationally.
In the late 1800s, America moulded Halloween into a holiday, more for community and neighbourly get-togethers than for ghosts, pranks and witchcraft. At the turn of the century, Halloween parties, for both children and adults became the most common way to celebrate the day. Parties focused on games, like trick or treating, foods of the season and festive costumes.
Today Halloween has taken the form of the most popular festival celebrated worldwide. With weird, funny, spooky costumes, sumptuous treats, crazy tricks and the earth, coloured tangerine, Halloween binds the spirit of autumn together.
Enjoy the goof, celebrate the spook and have a very Happy Halloween!