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Halloween Traditions

A History of Halloween

    The word "Halloween" is derived from All Hallows Eve, which occurs on November 1. The "All Hollows Day" or "All Saints Day". It is an important date on the Catholic calendar, a time to observe and honor saints.

    People believed that the souls of the dead come back to earth to visit their families or friends. People began to call November 1st as a holy or "Hallowed" day. It was to be called All Hallow's Day. Which was later shortened to what we know today as Halloween.

    ? In the 5th century BC, in Celtic Ireland, summer officially ended on October 31. This was called Samhain pronounced sow-en). This was the Celtic New Year.

    The disembodied spirits of everyone who had died throughout the year would return to seek living bodies to possess for the following year. It was their afterlife or Panati.

    On the night of October 31, all those living used to extinguish fires in their homes and make them cold and undesirable. They also dressed in ghoulish costumes and made noisy parades as a way to discourage and frighten away these spirits.

    Several stories speak of Celts burning someone at the stake that was perceived to be evil or possessed, as a demonstration to those spirits.

    In the first century AD, Romans abandoned the sacrifice of humans in favor of burning effigies.

    Over the centuries, as people became less believing in the supernatural, the practices became more ritualized. However people still enjoyed dressing up as: hobgoblins, ghosts, and witches. This became increasingly more ceremonial.

    In the 1840's, Halloween traditions were brought to America by Irish immigrants fleeing their country's potato famine.

    The favorite pranks in New England included tipping over outhouses and unhinging fence gates.

    Trick-or-Treating is believed to have originated with a ninth-century European custom called "souling". All Souls Day (November 2), early Christians used to walk from village to village begging for "soul cakes". These cakes were made out of square pieces of bread with currants. The more soul cakes the beggars would receive, the more prayers they would promise to say on behalf of the dead relatives of the donors. At the time, it was believed that the dead remained in limbo after death. People thought that prayers could help hasten a soul's passage to heaven.

    Jack O'Lantern's Story is fascinating one about the Irishman named Jack who was a notorious drunkard and trickster.

    Halloween has grown out of rituals of the Celts celebrating a new year, from Medieval prayer rituals of Europeans, and the Irish legend of Jack O'Lantern.

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