- Halloween is on October 31st, the last day of the Celtic calendar. It was originally a pagan holiday, honoring the dead. Halloween was referred to as All Hallows Eve and dates back to over 2000 years ago.
- All Hallows Eve is the evening before All Saints Day, which was created by Christians to convert pagans, and is celebrated on November 1st. The Catholic Church honoured saints on this designated day.
- Halloween culture can be traced back to the Druids, a Celtic culture in Ireland, Britain and Northern Europe. Roots lay in the feast of Samhain, which was annually on October 31st to honor the dead. Samhain signifies "summers end" or November.
- Samhain was a harvest festival with huge sacred bonfires, marking the end of the Celtic year and beginning of a new one. Many of the practices involved in this celebration were fed on superstition. The Celts believed the souls of the dead roamed the streets and villages at night. Since not all spirits were thought to be friendly, gifts and treats were left out to pacify the evil and ensure next year’s crops would be plentiful. This custom evolved into trick-or-treating.
Halloween costumes originated from the Celts when they lit huge bonfires and celebrated Samhain by dressing up in elaborate animal skins and heads to disguise themselves as spirits and demons so that the real ones couldn't distinguish them as being human. Their ceremonies consisted of dancing, telling stories, and reading fortunes.
Jack 'O Lanterns
- The traditions of carving jack 'o lanterns comes from an old Irish tale about a man named Stingy Jack.
- According to folklore, Stingy Jack was out getting sloshed with the Devil when Jack convinced his drinking partner to turn himself into a coin to pay for the drinks without spending money. Jack then put the Devil, shaped like a coin, into his pocket, which also contained a silver cross that kept the Devil from transforming back. Jack promised to free the Devil as long as the Devil wouldn't bother him for a year, and if he died, the Devil could never claim his soul. Jack tricked the Devil again later, getting him to pick a piece of fruit out of a tree and then carving a cross into the bark when the Devil was in the branches. This trick bought Jack another 10 years of devil-free living.
- When Jack finally died, God decided he wasn't fit for heaven, but the Devil had promised never to claim his soul for hell. So Jack was sent off to roam Earth with only a burning coal for light. He put the coal into a turnip as a lantern, and Stingy Jack became "Jack of the Lantern" or "Jack o' Lantern." Based on this myth, the Irish carved scary faces into turnips, beets and potatoes to scare away Stingy Jack or any other spirits of the night.
Trick or Treating
- The custom of trick or treating evolved in Ireland, centuries ago. In preparation for All Hollow's Eve, the poor would call upon the rich folks and request money, gifts and food. The food was gathered for a huge feast and celebration.
- Most experts trace trick-or-treating to the European practice of "mumming," or "guysing," in which costume-wearing participants would go door-to-door performing choreographed dances, songs and plays in exchange for treats. According to Elizabeth Pleck's "Celebrating The Family," the tradition cropped up in America, where it would often take place on Thanksgiving.
In northern Ireland, it was customary for Druids to perform ritualistic ceremonies and make sacrifices to pacify their gods. The Celts would bring wood and start their Samhain bonfire or, fire festival, on the hilltop. Often, they would throw the bones of slaughtered cattle into the flames. The word "bonfire" is said to be derived from such "bone fires". Bonfires and sacrifices guaranteed that the sun would burn brightly after a long, dreary winter. It's common to witness hundreds of traditional bonfires in Ireland every year on Halloween Night.
Orange and Black
Orange and black are Halloween colors because orange is associated with the autumn harvest and black is associated with darkness and death.