Halloween: Pagan Holiday or All in Fun?

Pagan Holiday or All in Fun?
Halloween has Something for Everyone

Trick or treat, kids and adults dressed up in costume, candy apples and haunted houses, today’s Halloween is not quite the same as Halloween of olden times. It wasn’t always as fun or as innocent as it is today.

Halloween traces its origins back to the Celtic culture over 2000 years ago. The Celts celebrated the end of the summer season with a festival known as Samhain. The Celts believed this day to be a day that the boundary between the living and the dead became crossable with the dead crossing over and causing problems such as sickness or damaged crops.

Costumes and masks being part of Halloween are thought to go back to the Celtic traditions as well. The Celts, in an effort to placate or copy the evil spirits would impersonate them by wearing masks and costumes.

All Hallows’ Even (All Hallows Eve)

The name Halloween comes from several different terms. All Hallows Eve or Even, even being the shortened word for evening, was the name given to the day before All Saints Day. It would eventually become Halloween, as it is known today.

Jack O’ Lantern’s Birth

The Jack O’ Lantern is an Irish tradition that made its way to America. Legend has it that hundreds of years ago in Ireland there was an old, stingy, drunkard named Jack. Jack like to go around playing tricks on people, anyone, men, women, children and even the Devil himself.

Legend has it that Old Jack tricked the Devil one day into climbing up in an apple tree. Old Jack tied a crosses around the trunk of the tree so the Devil couldn’t get down. Of course, the Devil got mad. Old Jack made the Devil promise not to take his soul when he died in exchange for Old Jack letting him out of the tree.

Well, the Devil kept his word and wouldn’t let Old Jack in Hell when he died, but he couldn’t get in Heaven either cause he was such an old cuss. So the Devil just laughed at Old Jack and tossed him a flame to see by as he wandered around the darkened Earth. Old Jack put the flame inside a hollowed out turnip and carried it around to see by.

Families in Ireland would carve out turnips and put them in their windows with candles in them on All Hallows Eve in hopes of keeping Old Jack and other restless spirits away. Over the years and as the tradition made its way to America, pumpkins were used instead of turnips because they were easier to carve and more abundant.

Trick or Treat

The tradition of dressing up in costume and going door-to-door trick or treating can be traced back to the middle ages and the practice of ‘souling’ – poor people would go door to door begging for food and offering prayers in return. Other similarities can be found as far back as the Celtics when they dressed as the dead to placate them at the festival of Samhain.

Regardless of its origins, Halloween has become a night of fun for both children and adults. Costumes and candy for the children, festivals for the family and lots of haunted events for the brave hearted adults to attend, Halloween has something for everyone.

-Sharon Chapman

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