Celebrate Your Child!

Oct 21, 2009

Trick or Treat

Halloween is an annual celebration, but just what is it actually a celebration of? And how did this peculiar custom originate? Is it, as some claim, a kind of demon worship? Or is it just a harmless vestige of some ancient pagan ritual?

Many people think that Halloween is a “devil worshipping” holiday celebrated by people who don’t believe in God, but the truth is that Halloween really has its basic origins in the Catholic Church. Halloween means “All Saints Eve” or “All Hallows Eve”.

All Saints Day is a religious holiday observed by the Catholic Church and set aside for worship of all the saints in heaven. They used to consider it with all solemnity as one of the most significant observances of the Church year. The American origin of Halloween extends further from the Celts celebration of Samhain (pronounced sow – in) which is a Druidic festival made to celebrate the end of the harvest. As with a lot of Celtic lore, faeries were thought to be extremely active at this time as they ushered in the winter.

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 celebrate Samhain.

It was on this day that they believe the ghosts of the dead returned to Earth causing trouble and damaging crops. Celts felts that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids – Celtic priests – to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the natural world, which could be quite volatile, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winger.

During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes – typically consisting of animal heads and skins – and they tried to tell each other’s fortunes. They would build huge sacred bonfires where people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. When the celebration was over, they re-lit the fires in their hearths which they had put out earlier that evening. The fires would be re-lit with flame from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter. The belief is that Halloween originated in Ireland and, as we’ve said previously, was known as “Samhain Night”. This festival celebrated the end of the harvest season and ushered in the winter.

They spent the evening of October 31st dressed in costume celebrating around bonfires and paying homage to the Druid Gods that were hoped to keep them safe throughout the long winter.

Today, in Ireland, adults and children dress up as creatures from the underworld. The
costumes range from ghosts, ghouls, zombies, witches, and goblins. They light bonfires and enjoy spectacular fireworks displays even if in some places fireworks are illegal.

The children walk around knocking on the doors of neighbors to gather fruit, nuts, and sweets for the Halloween festival. At one time, salt was sprinkled in the hair of the children by their neighbors in order to protect them from evil spirits. Houses are decorated with carved pumpkins or turnips that sports scary faces and a candle is placed inside the hollowed out fruit to light and decorate. The Irish also decorate their homes to celebrate this holiday.

Many people still bake a traditional Halloween cake called a barmbrack which is fruit bread. Each member of the family gets a slice of the cake. Great interest is taken in this tradition as there is a piece of rag, a coin, and a ring in each cake.

So, although some cults may have adopted Halloween as their favorite "holiday," the day itself did not grow out of evil practices. It grew out of the rituals of Celts celebrating a new year, and out of Medieval prayer rituals of Europeans. And today, even many churches have Halloween parties or pumpkin carving events for the kids. After all, the day itself is only as evil as one cares to make it.

Happy Halloween ! ;-)

Halloween iconImage via Wikipedia

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