02.11.2019
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Where the Halloween came from?

A brief history of the worldwide holiday

Пляски у костра — традиционная часть празднования Хэллоуина
Reading time 4 minutes

Although many people celebrate the Halloween at the eve of November 1, not many of them are aware of the roots of the holiday. This article is just about the history of Halloween.

The holiday was invented by Druids that was one of the peoples pertaining to the ancient Celtic tribes. The majority of Druids inhabited the territory of modern UK, France and Spain. They divides a year to 2 seasons, so they did not have Spring and Autumn. Summer ended at October 31 and the next day new season, Winter, and New Wear begun. Also, October 31 was the last day of harvest. Then Celtic tribes celebrated Samhain which means the end of Summer in translation from Celtic. During the holiday people lit sacred fires, thanked gods for not depriving the tribe from crops, and met the dark season. Samhain was the ancestor of contemporary Halloween.

The area setteled by the Celtic tribes B.C.
The area setteled by the Celtic tribes B.C.

Ancient Celtic tribes adhere paganism. They believe that in the Samhain’s night souls of the dead roam in the world of the living. Celtic tried to propitiate them with sweet gifts so that they keep the next harvest safe. These beliefs have transformed into trick-or-treat tradition. Children knock to the doors of adults to entreat them to give sweets and biscuits. Nobody refuses because in the past superstition that anyone who did not open the door for the spirit, would be punished existed.

Halloween is the day, when people eat the largest amount of sweets anually
Halloween is the day when people eat the largest amount of sweets anually

One more custom is carving lanterns from pumpkins. Not having wanted to attract ghosts to houses at Samhain’s night, ancient Celts extinguished their hearths and kindled forest fires. To reach the forest safely, they dressed in animal skins. In the forest the Druids performed sacrifices: they burned cows at the stake. After that the fire became sacred. Members of the tribe placed coals from their fires in lanterns cut from turnips. Then the Druids took the lanterns and left them at the door so that the souls of their ancestors could see their homes and escape wandering around the world. Dark spirits, according to the Celts, were afraid of this fire.

The tradition is based on Celtic myths. The legend says that the Irishman Jack lived to outwit both God and the devil, therefore he did not go to heaven or hell after death but remained in purgatory forever. In order not to wander in the pitch darkness, he made a lantern. The farmer put a hell coal given by the devil into the lantern.

Nowadays, the pumpkin has become the main symbol of Halloween
Nowadays, the pumpkin has become the main symbol of Halloween

At the beginning of the new era the Celts were conquered by the Romans then both were forced to become Christians. Because of this, pagan holidays were gradually mixed with Church ones or blurred but they were not consigned to oblivion, for example, Samhain underwent a metamorphosis.

After Pope Gregory III officially moved the celebration of All Hallows Eve from spring to November 1, the ancient pagan holiday and the new Catholic one coincided. From that moment Samhain was called Halloween. Initially, All Hallows Eve was shortened to Hallowe’en and then to Halloween.

Halloween parade in New-York, the capital of the holiday
Halloween parade in New-York, the capital of the holiday

In the 19th century many Irish emigrated to North America and brought the traditions of the holiday. Now Halloween is celebrated most widely in Canada, the United States, New Zealand and other English-speaking countries. From the beginning of A.D. to the XXI century many rituals have changed. Jack’s lantern is not made from turnips anymore, nowadays people make it from pumpkins. Moreover, they carve not ancestors’ faces but terrifying ones. Revelers do not dress up in animal skins they wear costumes of evil spirits. Nowadays, the celebration of Halloween is becoming more popular even in those countries that did not adopt the Celtic culture from their ancestors.

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