History of Halloween

Halloween is such a celebrated event of the year. Like Christmas, New Year and the Valentine's Day, it has become rather a major event. And what better to way to celebrate this than to have this familiar "trick and treat" and of costumes that are aimed to scare the hell out of everyone, if not solely to mimic the wicked and horrifying looks of the damned and the supernatural. But how exactly did the celebration of Halloween originate? Here's what I found out in the Wikipedia website.
Halloween's origin can be traced back to Samhain. Samhain became the Halloween of modern times when Christian missionaries attempted to change the religious practices of the Celtic people. The Celtic festival Samhain was a day where the Celtics believed their ancestors spirit would come back to Earth. It was easier for them to harvest crops because of the ghostly surroundings. To celebrate the festival, they wore costumes, mostly skins and animal heads, and danced around bonfires. In the early centuries of the first millennium A.D., before missionaries such as St. Patrick and St. Columcille converted them to Christianity, the Celts practiced an elaborate religion through their priestly caste, the Druids, who were priests, poets, scientists and scholars all at once. As religious leaders, ritual specialists, and bearers of learning, the Druids were not unlike the very missionaries and monks who were to Christianize their people and brand them as devil worshippers. As folklorist Jack Santino noted, rather than try to obliterate native peoples' customs and beliefs, the pope [Pope Gregory I, 601 A.D.] instructed his missionaries to use them: if a group of people worshipped a tree, rather than cut it down, he advised them to consecrate it to Christ and allow its continued worship" (Santino 1982). As representatives of the rival religion, Druids were considered evil worshippers of devilish or demonic gods and spirits. The Celtic underworld thusly became identified with the Christian Hell. The effects of Pope Gregory's policy were to not totally dismiss the beliefs in the traditional gods, but to diminish them significantly, instead focussing on the related Christian holy day that was nearest. Celtic belief in supernatural creatures persisted, while the church made deliberate attempts to define them as being dangerous and malicious. Followers of the old religion went into hiding, branded as witches. The evening prior to the day was the time of the most intense activity, both human and supernatural. People continued to celebrate All Hallows Eve as a time of the wandering dead, but the supernatural beings were now thought to be evil. The folk continued to propitiate those spirits (and their masked impersonators) by setting out gifts of food and drink. Subsequently, All Hallows Eve became Hallow Evening, which became Hallowe'en—an ancient Celtic, pre-Christian New Year's Day in contemporary dress.

In old England, cakes were made for the wandering souls, and people went "a' soulin'" for these "soul cakes". Halloween, a time of magic, also became a day of divination, with a host of magical beliefs: for instance, if persons hold a mirror on Halloween and walk backwards down the stairs to the basement, the face that appears in the mirror will be their next lover (Santino 1982).

This is the traditional popular press account of the holiday. The story is, in fact, more complicated. By the mid-fourth century Christians in the Mediterranean world, without prompting by any "Celtic people", were already keeping a feast in honour of all those who had been martyred under the pagan emperors; it is mentioned in the Carmina Nisibena of St Ephraem, (died 373) as being held on 13 May. ...By 800 churches in England and Germany, which were in touch with each other, were celebrating a festival dedicated to all saints upon 1 November instead. The oldest text of Bede's Martyrology, from the eighth century, does not include the festival on this date, but the recensions at the end of the century do. Charlemagne's favourite churchman Alcuin was keeping it by then, as were also his friend Arno, bishop of Salzburg, and a church in Bavaria. Pope Gregory, therefore, was endorsing and adopting a practice which had begun in northern Europe. Nevertheless, All Saints on November 1 had not, however, started in Ireland, where the Felire of Oengus and the Martyrology of Tallaght prove that the early medieval churches celebrated the feast of All Saints upon 20 April. ...both 'Celtic' Europe and Rome had changed over to a Germanic practice.[1] On the other hand, Christianity outside of this jurisdiction has retained celebration of All Saints in the spring, scheduled in relationship to Pentecost. It is claimed that the old beliefs associated with Samhain never died out entirely and that All Saints Day, otherwise known as All Hallows (hallowed, i.e. sanctified or holy), continued the ancient Celtic practices. However, there is frustratingly little primary documentation of how Halloween was celebrated in preindustrial Ireland. Historian Nicholas Rogers has written, "It is not always easy to track the development of Halloween in Ireland and Scotland from the mid-seventeenth century, largely because one has to trace ritual practices from [modern] folkloric evidence that do not necessarily reflect how the holiday might have changed; these rituals may not be "authentic" or "timeless" examples of preindustrial times."

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