It is the spookiest time of the year. The 31st October has come and it is the time for Halloween. This year Halloween 2017 falls on Tuesday.
What is Halloween?
Halloween (also known as Allhalloween, All Hallows’ Eve or All Saints’ Eve) comes from the word Hallowe’en, meaning ‘hallowed evening’ or holy evening.
It is a spooky celebration observed in many countries every year on the last day of October, which is also the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows’ Day, also known as All Saints’ Day.
Early history behind Halloween 2017
Many people believe that the origin of this festival dates back to the Celtic pagan festival of Samhain, meaning ‘Summer’s End’.
This festival marked the end of harvest season and the beginning of the cold winter. The Celtics would bid farewell to the warm days as the length of the day began to get shortened.
The Celts believed that during the festival of Samhain, the boundary between the world of the living and the dead becomes the thinnest.
As a result they feared that spirits could pass through the boundary and cause damage to their crops for the next season.
So to appease any spirits, they would set up separate places for them at the dinner table. And to scare off the evil spirits, bonfires were lit.
Later history behind Halloween 2017
In the later years, the Irish carved out demon’s face in turnips and lit candles in them to frighten away the evil spirits.
But in 1840, due to less production of turnips and abundance of pumpkins, the Irish started carving faces on the pumpkins.
In the 1st century A.D., the Romans occupied the Celtic lands and incorporated many Celtic traditions, including the tradition of celebrating Samhain.
After eight hundred years, the Roman Catholic Church modified the event of Samhain, and announced 1st November as All Saints’ Day, in honor of all Catholic saints.
In England, All Saints’ Day was known as All Hallows’ Day.
Since then, the evening before i.e. 31st October is known as All Hallows’ Eve, which is later modified into the American word ‘Halloween’.
The reason behind dressing up in Halloween 2017
The Celts used to dress up in white and paint their faces black during the festival of Samhain. They believed that by doing this evil spirits would be tricked into thinking that the people in weird dresses are ghosts and would leave them alone.
Later in the 11th century, this tradition came to be called as ‘souling’. Children would dress up like angels, demons or saints and go from door-to-door asking for soul cakes.
The soul cakes were in fact sweets with a cross marked on the top of them. The children would ask for them in exchange for prayers for close ones.
It was then believed that if a soul cake was eaten, it would free a soul from purgatory.
Later in the 19th century, the children stopped giving prayers. Instead, they started to offer songs, poetry and jokes in exchange for fruits or money.
The phrase trick-or-treat was first used in 1927 in America. The tradition of offering songs, poetry and jokes were over. And in place of that pranks were done in exchange for sweets.
With the rise in the gothic themes in literature during the Victorian ages, costumes became more scary and adventurous.
People started to dress up like bats, ghosts or even like an Egyptian pharaoh. With the rise of pop culture, costumes became more sexualized in the 1970s.
Many people also fall prey to pranks during Halloween. From scaring people in the sleep to chasing them dressed as ghosts− the list would go on.
Theory behind carving pumpkins
According to folktales, many people believe in the story of Stingy Jack, who had once fooled the devil into buying him a drink.
After his death, Jack was neither allowed entrance to heaven nor hell. Instead, he was sent to earth with a burning coal to roam upon earth as a ghost.
Jack put the coal into a turnip and turned it into a lantern and hence was named Jack O’ Lantern.
After the lesser production of turnips and its higher rates in the 1940s, carving of turnips was stopped. Pumpkins were started to be carved as it was cheap and there was plenty pf production.
So what are you waiting for? Grab your Halloween costume and go spooking people around. Happy Halloween!