Halloween also known as All Hallows’ Eve or All Saints’ Eve is the eve of the Western Christian feast that takes place on All Hallows’ Day. Halloween is observed on the 31st of October every year and it gives way to the three-day occasion of Allhallowtide.
This holiday is devoted to remembering the dead and is observed by many western as well as non-western Christians around the world. Bordering on the line between fall and winter, this holiday celebrates superstitions and spookiness.
The name Halloween dates back to the year 1745 and is of Christian origin. It literally means “hallowed evening” or “holy evening” and comes from a Scottish term for the evening before All Hallows’ Day.
This is a time when the days begin to get shorter and the nights colder during which the people in a number of countries around the world welcome this holiday with spooky costumes, jack-o-lanterns and lots of candy. One interesting fact about this holiday is that one quarter of all the candies that are sold annually in the US is sold during Halloween.
It’s strongly believed that Halloween has originated from the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain during which people would light bonfires and don various costumes to ward off evil spirits roaming around. The Celtic harvest festivals are thought to have pagan roots and none other than the Gaelic festival Samhain was later Christianized to be Halloween.
As old as the eighth century, 1st of November was proclaimed by Pope Gregory the Third to be the holiday to honor all saints and martyrs i.e. All Saints’ Day. The evening prior to this occasion was called All Hallows’ Eve which later became known as Halloween. The Celts who are dated back to 2000 years and used to live on areas which are presently known as Ireland, UK and northern France observed their new year on the 1st of November every year.
This day marked a clear distinction where the harvest season and summer ends and the cold, dark winter time approaches. This was a certain time of the year that was associated with human death and it was a strong belief of the Celts that on the night before their new year, the worlds of the living becomes free to enter by the dead as the boundary between the two worlds becomes less effective. Thus, on the eve of their new year, they used to build large bonfires which they considered sacred and wear costumes made from animal heads and skins.
In the second half of the nineteenth century, new immigrants rushed into America and they brought along with them rising popularity for the occasion. By the starting of the twentieth century, Halloween lost majorly the superstitions and religious significance. By the 1920’s and 1930’s, Halloween had evolved into more of a secular and community-event based festival with features like trick-or-treating, parades and town-wide parties. Till today, Halloween is an immensely and widely celebrated festival in America as well as some other countries of the world. The Americans are estimated to spend around $6 billion on Halloween giving it the title of the country’s second biggest commercial holiday.
Halloween is forever considered to be a holiday filled with a mysterious, spooky and superstitious essence and feel. For the spirits of deceased friends and relatives, people set out places on the dinner table, treats on the doorstep, by the road as well as light candles to guide their dear ones back to the spirit world. One of the most prevalent superstitions is that we avoid crossing paths with black cats as we feel it can bring bad luck to us. Other omens that people avoid during Halloween are spilling of salt, walking under a ladder, breaking of a mirror, stepping on cracks etc. Other famous Halloween superstitions include:
The most popular Halloween activities include trick-or-treating that is when children dress up in fancy costumes and visit houses in the neighborhood to collect candy (treats) from the houses. People host or attend Halloween special costume parties and play games like apple bobbing, chestnut hunt etc. Pumpkins are carved into jack-o-lanterns and are used to decorate houses on Halloween night. Activities like playing spooky pranks on friends, lighting bonfires, narrating ghost stories, visiting haunted places and watching horror films are also popular. Religious observances like attending special church services or lighting candles on the graves of the deceased are also prevalent in some places. Halloween special foods include potato pancakes, apples, soul cakes, ale and candy.
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