Sunday, October 23, 2011
Halloween Is Almost Here…
And this week I have more about ghosts, goblins, and things that go bump in the night. Starting with the ancient origins of the Halloween holiday and then a bit about Jack O'Lanterns.
The roots of Halloween date back 2000 years to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in, rhymes with cow). The Celts lived in what is now Ireland, United Kingdom, and northern France. They celebrated their new year on November 1, the day marking the end of summer and the harvest, and the beginning of the dark winter. They believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead wasn't clearly defined. On the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, a time when they believed the ghosts of the dead returned to earth.
To commemorate the event, the Druids (Celtic priests) built large sacred bonfires where the people made sacrifices to the Celtic deities. During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes and attempted to tell each other's fortunes. When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the winter.
By 43A.D., the Romans had conquered most of the Celtic territory. During the next four hundred years, the Roman festivals of Feralia and Pomona were combined with the traditional celebration of Samhain. In the seventh century, Pope Boniface IV declared November 1st to be All Saints' Day. It's believed today that the pope was trying to replace the Celtic festival with a church sanctioned holiday. The celebration was also called All-hallows. So, the night before it, the night of Samhain, was called All-Hallows Eve.
In 1000A.D., the church declared November 2nd All Souls' Day, a day to honor the dead. It was celebrated similarly to Samhain with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes. Together the three celebrations—the eve of All Saints', All Saints', and All Souls'—were called Hallowmas and eventually Halloween.
Halloween has always been a holiday filled with mystery, magic and superstition. It began as a Celtic end-of-summer festival during which people felt especially close to deceased relatives and friends. They set places at the table and left treats on doorsteps for these friendly spirits. They also lit candles to help their loved ones find their way back to the spirit world. Today's Halloween ghosts are usually depicted as scarier, as are our customs and superstitions.
And then there's the Jack O'Lantern. Making a Jack O'Lantern for Halloween is a centuries old practice that originated from an Irish myth about a man nicknamed Stingy Jack. He played tricks on the Devil and made Satan promise not to take his soul when he died. When the time came, God refused to allow him into heaven because he was an unsavory character. The Devil wouldn't allow him into hell because Jack had made him promise. With nowhere to go, Jack put a burning coal into a carved out turnip and has been roaming the Earth ever since. The Irish began to refer to this ghostly figure as Jack Of The Lantern which morphed into Jack O'Lantern.
In Ireland and Scotland, people began to make their own versions by carving scary faces into turnips and potatoes, and in England they used large beets. Immigrants from these countries brought the tradition with them to the United States where they soon found that pumpkins made the perfect Jack O'Lantern.
Do you have a favorite costume this year? Are you planning on going to a party? Leave me a comment about your Halloween plans.
Next week I'm going to talk about what there will be an abundance of Halloween night and for the next few days…Halloween candy. It will be Halloween Candy Nightmares (the worst choices) and the pairing of Halloween wine with Halloween candy. Do you have any idea which wine goes with candy corn? :)