It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
Courtesy of mattben on community.realitytvworld.com
When you go outside, you have the chance to hear the whistling wind. You can also notice the jack-o-lanterns with their ghastly skull faces glowing at you. You also can smell the sweet scent of pumpkin pie fresh from the oven and you feel that the end is nigh. The end of our trees, the end of the month, the end of the year.
Halloween, also known as All Hallows Eve is indeed a time of much intrigue. One may have heard that its origins come from a time of satanic ritual and evil. One may have heard that it came from a free-for-all serial murder that happened yearly for a time. Thank goodness that these things are as a hiss and a byword and thusly untrue.
Everything began in the first century AD with the Celtics. During the harvest time of the year, they celebrated Samhain. This was known as well as the Celtic New Year, for November 1 marked the beginning of one of their years. They believed that it was during this time of the year that the veil between the mortal realm and the afterlife was at its thinnest and that our friends who have passed on return to the earth for a time.
Eventually, in about 43 AD, the Roman legions took over the Celtic territory, changing a few of the activities that had been in practice during that time.
We may wonder: Why do we dress in costume this time of year? Why do we bob for apples at Halloween parties? Why do we go trick or treating? Why do we carve pumpkins into frightening images?
During the early years of the Samhain festival, it became common knowledge that during this time the spirits walked the earth. For this reason, many people felt it a necessity to wear costumes during the night hours so the spirits would mistake them as spirits as well. The supposed earliest costumes came from “mumming”, “guising”, or the British “souling”, where people would wear costumes and go house to house asking for food in exchange for prayers for their dead.
If one would fast-forward to America during the 1930’s they would find pranks and vandalism during this time of year at an all time high. However, how does one get to a man’s heart? Through his stomach. In order to keep the local kids from doing “tricks” at their expense, American homeowners began offering coins, cookies, toys, and countless other things to appease the would-be vandals. This is interesting considering how in ancient Britain, the locals would leave food out of their front doors in order to keep the spirits from causing any damage to them or their homes.
When the Roman influence came into Samhain, the same thing happened when the Roman influence came into Christmas, paganism came in. During the days the Romans and the Celts celebrated this time, the Romans paid homage to the Pomona, the goddess of fruit and trees. It is really no coincidence that her very symbol is the apple. Caramel apples anyone?
Legend has it that once upon a time in Ireland, a drunken man by the name of Jack made an interesting deal with the devil. The result of this deal was that after he died, he was turned away at the gates of heaven and hell. He then carved a lantern from a turnip and used that to guide himself through his state of purgatory. Others then caught on, using turnips, and later pumpkins to repel Jack and other wandering spirits.
It seems that we Americans like to take something with some meaning and to turn it into something new. Halloween used to be about paying homage to those who have gone before us. Now, it’s an excuse to try and enter a possible diabetic shock from the millions of dollars worth of candy that gets sold yearly at this time of year.
Featured Image Courtesy of Patrick from flickr
-Loren Riddle WR 121-19