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Christmas Around The World

Halloween Traditions

Halloween from Around the World
Halloween in Rome

    Parentalia the Roman holiday dedicated to honoring dead family began precisely at the sixth hour on the thirteenth day of February and lasted a full nine days thereafter. These dies parentales or in English parental days, were not a spooky time for the average Roman citizen. Rather, these were days of obligation and feasting, quiet and respectful, introspective, like a wake. During the Parentalia, all temples were closed, weddings were forbidden, and governmental magistrates uncharacteristically appeared in public devoid of the insignia of their office. People visited their parents' and other relatives' graves, bringing offerings such as milk, wine, honey, oil, and spring water. Some brought sacrificial blood from the bodies of black animals. They decked the graves with roses and violets. "Dining with the dead" at the grave site, the celebrant would offer the traditional greeting and farewell of the holiday: "Salve, sancte parens", "Hail, holy ancestor."

    The Vestal virgins, the priestesses who tended the goddess Vesta's shrine in the Forum, performed rites of their own at the Parentalia. The senior Vestal paid a ceremonial visit to the group's "parental" tomb - that of the early Vestal, Tarpeia.

    On May 9 is the Lemuria a festival held to remove the more hungry ghosts or Lemures.

    The Lemuria is a festival held for homeowners to rid their homes of resident lemures. A celebrant would walk through the house barefoot at midnight walking from room to room with one hand upheld in the fig gesture, which is the thumb held between the second and third fingers. The celebrantís mouth would be filled with dried black beans, which he would spit out one by one as he walked. The beans were used as ghost bait. As he walked he would spit one out and say the chant nine times: "With these I redeem myself and mine." The idea was that the lemures would be following him, eating the beans that had been spat out by the celebrant. While the celebrant was walking around with the ghosts following him people were not to look back during the ritual. Once the celebrant had come full circle, he would wash his hands thoroughly, then he would beat brass pans together, making as much noise as possible so as to bid the lemures good-bye.

    A festival held called Feralia is much like the Day of the Dead ceremony. The name feralia comes the verb ferre meaning to carry, or to ferry.

    The Roman families would go to the ancestral graveyard, ferrying offerings. The reasons was that they believed the ghosts were hovering around the graves, so they take food to extinguish the pyres.

    Once the ancestors were honored and fed, comes the ceremony Caristia from the word Cara meaning dear. This was a holiday to re-affirm, a day of affectionate family reunions.

    All fighting was forbidden, old feuds would be forgotten, and sibling rivalries would have to be set aside.

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