There is nothing quite like experiencing Halloween in North America – they do it bigger and better….
Yet the Halloween tradition emanates from the UK and Celtic France; it developed over 2,000 years ago from an ancient pagan festival celebrated by the Celts The original festival was called Samhain (pronounced SOW ehn), which means “summer’s end.” It marked the onset of the dark winter season and was celebrated around November 1. In the 800′s, November 1 became known as “All Hallows/All Saints Day” and this became a new Christian holiday. AND the evening before All Hallows’ was known as All Hallows’ Eve, or – and you know where this is going right? – All Hallow e’en. shortened eventually to Halloween.
Halloween’s association with the occult is longstanding In the 1500′s and 1600′s, in Europe, superstition had it that the devil made witches do evil deeds and that on Halloween witches and their black cats flew around night sky on broomsticks. It was also believed that on Halloween fairies and ghosts could be asked for help casting spells or seeing into the future. To ward off any unfriendly supernatural creatures, turnip lanterns carved with grotesque faces could be carried. In Scotland bonfires were lit on hillsides to drive away evil spirits and for centuries in Europe, people remembered the dead at All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day (November 2) with bonfires. People used to leave food out on a table as a treat for spirits believed to be about on Halloween.
In England, people went house-to-house “souling” i.e. asking for small breads called soul cakes in exchange for prayers; sometimes they wore costumes when they begged house-to-house for a Halloween feast. In Wales, boys dressed as girls and girls dressed as boys to go house-to-house singing Halloween rhymes.
Jack-o-lanterns – according to an Irish legend – were named after a character named Jack, who could not enter heaven because he was a miserly, bad-tempered man. Neither could he enter Hell, because he had tricked the devil several times. As a result, Jack had to walk the earth forever with only a coal from hell to light his lantern. Originally large beets or turnips were used as jack – o – lanterns. It wasn’t until the tradition ported over to the US that pumpkins began to be used.
Over and Out