If you sing my title with the theme tune of ‘Horrible Histories’ it actually works quite well. If you’re looking blankly at the screen and have no idea what I’m talking about then I will swiftly move on and forget I ever had this moment with you. Today we are doing a history lesson with Soph. Frankly I wanted to learn more about Halloween and so I thought I would share it with you guys too. There is so much history behind it and I wish I could share it all with you but I would literally be here writing a thesis. So, lets just pick the best bits.
Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). For all of you that were pronouncing it Sam-hain, I’m with you on that one haha. The Celts who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and Northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1.
This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. For people who were entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter.
By 43 A.D. the Roman Empire had conquered the majority of Celtic territory. In the course of the four hundred years that they ruled the Celtic lands, two festivals of Roman origin were combined with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain.
The first was Feralia, a day in late October when the Romans traditionally commemorated the passing of the dead. The second was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple, and the incorporation of this celebration into Samhain probably explains the tradition of “bobbing” for apples that is practiced today on Halloween.
MAKES SO MUCH SENSE RIGHT. LETS SKIP TO HALLOWEEN COMING TO AMERICA.
Celebration of Halloween was extremely limited in colonial New England because of the rigid Protestant belief systems there.
As the beliefs and customs of different European ethnic groups as well as the American Indians meshed, a distinctly American version of Halloween began to emerge. The first celebrations included “play parties,” public events held to celebrate the harvest, where neighbours would share stories of the dead, tell each other’s fortunes, dance and sing. America made Halloween hugeeee.
WHY DO WE TRICK AND TREAT?
The American Halloween tradition of “trick-or-treating” dates back to the early All Souls’ Day parades in England. During the festivities, poor citizens would beg for food and families would give them pastries called “soul cakes” in return for their promise to pray for the family’s dead relatives.
The distribution of soul cakes was encouraged by the church as a way to replace the ancient practice of leaving food and wine for roaming spirits. The practice, which was referred to as “going a-souling” was eventually taken up by children who would visit the houses in their neighborhood and be given ale, food and money.
WHY DO WE DRESS UP?
On Halloween, when it was believed that ghosts came back to the earthly world, people thought that they would encounter ghosts if they left their homes. To avoid being recognized by these ghosts, people would wear masks when they left their homes after dark so that the ghosts would mistake them for fellow spirits.
SOUNDS LIKE THE PURGE AH.
To be continued…
As always thanks for reading and I’ll see you on Wednesday for more Halloween Historyyyyy. (Still singing the theme tune haha)
Sophie Joan xox