Halloween: Combining Two Worlds Oct 27, 2013 22:10:04 GMT -5
Post by Joanna on Oct 27, 2013 22:10:04 GMT -5
Halloween: Combining Two Worlds
Halloween is a combination of two worlds on several levels. It is a mixture of pagan and Christian, the living and the dead, ancient and modern civilizations, folklore and history. The origins of Halloween date to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. This pagan celebration marked the end of the harvest season, i.e., the “bright half” of the year that began at Beltane. Samhain was the final hurrah before the beginning of “dark half.”
The ancient Celts believed that at sunset on this day, the world of the living overlapped with the world of the dead because the veil separating the living and the dead was at its thinnest. People lit bonfires and wore masks to trick any malevolent spirits intent upon enacting revenge from beyond the grave. Many researchers believe this was also a time when fortunes were told and people attempted to predict the future for the year to come.
The Romans conquered much of the Celtic territories by AD 43 and ruled for approximately 400 years. As Christianity spread, missionaries retained pagan symbols and celebrations, but substituted Christian saints for the joyous old gods. Thus, the day following Samhain became All Saints Day and the night before, All Hallows Eve, later shortened to “Halloween.”
Because Samhain emphasizes the supernatural, many Christians considered, and still consider, it the devil’s holiday. Though pagan practices greatly diminished following the advent of Christianity, there were those who refused to give up their joyous old gods and continued to believe the dead were just a hair’s breadth away on this magical night of the year.
Trick-or-treating is derived from the Medieval tradition of “souling,” wherein the children of the poor in England and Ireland would go door-to-door offering to sing a song or offer a prayer for a departed soul in exchange for food. The treat was a “soul cake,” which, in the beginning, consisted of flattened bread containing fruit. Variations on this practice spread throughout western Europe as far south as Italy. Shakespeare made reference to the practice of souling in his play Two Gentlemen of Verona in Act II, Scene 1, whenin the character of Speed says, “to speak puling, like a beggar at Hallowmas.”
Source: Cynthia Collins, The Los Vegas Guardian-Express, October 27, 2013.