Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween

Halloween is also known as All Hallow's Eve and is observed on October 31 in a number of countries. October 31 is the eve of the Western Christian feast of all Hallows Day.  It starts the triduum of Hallowmas, the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead; which include saints, martyrs and all the faithful departed believers.  According to scholars, All Hallow's Eve is a Christianized feast that was influenced by Celtic harvest festivals with possible pagan roots, particularly the Gaelic Samhain.  There are others who believe otherwise.

The word Halloween dates to about 1745 and is of Christian origin.  Halloween means hallowed evening or holy evening.  It comes from a Scottish term for All Hallows Eve.

Today's Halloween custom are thought to have been influenced by folk customs and beliefs from Celtic speaking countries.  Halloween is more typically linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain, which comes from the Old Irish for summers end.  Samhain was the and most important of the four quarter days in the medieval Gaelic calendar and was celebrated in Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man.  It was held on or about October 31-November 1 and similar festivals were held at the same time of year by the Brittonic Celts.  Samhain/Calan Gaeaf marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter.  At Samhain, it was believed that Aos Si needs to be made well to ensure that the people and their livestock made it through the winter  Offerings of food and drink or portions of the crops were left for the Aos Si.  The souls of the dead were also said to revisit their homes.  Places were set at the dinner table or by the fire to welcome them.  The belief that the souls of the dead return home on one night or day of the year seems to have ancient origins and is found in many cultures throughout the world.

In modern Ireland, Scotland, Mann and Wales, the festival includes  mumming and guising, the latter of which goes back at least as far as the 16th century.  This involved people going house to house in costume, reciting verses or song in exchange for food.  Wearing costumes at Halloween spread to England in the 20th century as did the custom of playing pranks.

North American almanacs of the late 18th and early 19th century do not indicate that Halloween was celebrated here.  The Puritans had strong opposition to Halloween.  It was not until the Irish and Scottish immigration during the 19th century that it was brought to North America.  At that point it was confined to the immigrant communities and by the first decade of the 20th century it was being celebrated by people of all social, racial and religious backgrounds.

Symbols of Halloween:

Jack-O-lanterns were traditionally carried by people dressed up on Halloween to frighten the evil spirits.  There is a popular Irish Christian folktale associated with the jack-o-lantern, which in lore is said to represent a soul who has been denied entry into both heaven and hell.

In Ireland and Scotland, the turnip was carved for Halloween.  The pumpkin is native to us and is easier to carve.  The American tradition of carving pumpkins is recorded in 1837 and was originally associated with harvest time in general.

Trick or treat?

Trick refers to "threat" to perform mischief on the homeowners on their property if no treat is given.

Something relative recent is Trunk or Treating is when children are offered treats from the trunks of cars parked in a church parking lot or a school parking lot.  This is relatively more safe than going door to door.

The information in this post was taken from Wikpedia and the pictures I took last year in Costa Mesa and Balboa Island.

More pictures of how people celebrate Halloween.  These pictures were taken in Huntington Beach on a Worldwide Photo Walk.

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