10 Posts to Hallowe’en: Post 1, The History of Hallowe’en

I am celebrating as much as I can for Hallowe’en – and that means here on the blog too! So I present to you, my lovelies, the 10 Posts to Hallowe’en !

Each post will highlight a particular part of the Hallowe’en season I enjoy immensely and wish to share with everyone.

Please feel free to participate by commenting below!

The History of Hallowe’en

Ah yes, creepy masks!

Halloween is thought to have begun with the Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced So-wen), the feast day between the Autumnal Equinox and the Winter Solstice when the veil between the world of the living and the world of the dead is the thinnest. On Samhain, the Celts would light big bonfires and wear masks and costumes to ward off evil spirits, as well as lighting up hollowed out turnips to keep bad forces from their doors. The priests and other religious people would try and prophesize on whether or not their villages would survive the coming winter, it being the end of the harvest and all, that seems like it would have been a good idea.

The costumes and hand sewn masks that were worn had a purpose too; with any luck, the grotesque elements of the dress would trick all the malavolent spirits into thinking you were one of them, thus disguising you from their notice.

In the 8th century, in an attempt to wrest these types of beliefs from the Celts, the Catholic Church decided that All Hallows day would be established on November 1st. Logically then, the night before All Hallows Day became All Hallows Eve … and then, of course, Hallowe’en. Now of course, it’s called All Saint’s Day, and needless to say, the Catholic Church didn’t really win that one …

Adorable little devils!

These types of traditions survived and evolved into their present day form when Irish immigrants came to North America through the potato famine in the nineteenth century. Of course, when they got to the overcrowded cities of the Atlantic seaside, big bonfires weren’t going to cut it – and so stated the tradition of lighting up the inside of hollowed-out gourds.

Trick or treating has unclear origins. Some think it developed from “Souling” – a tradition where poor people would travel from door to door offering prayers to the owners, and for their dead, in exchange for food and cake. The term itself – “trick-or-treat” – was first found in a Canadian newspaper article from 1927 where it was reported that a bunch f hooligans would pull pranks and the like on their neighbours, demanding candy when they were caught. Around the 1950s, the practice became less about tricking and more about treating, and the candy companies rejoiced!

Yup.

Nowadays, Halloween is a predominantly North American holiday (thank the heavens I live in North America) though you can find it in other places – for example, when I was a kid … there really was no Halloween in Portugal, but now it’s a second Carnaval, which is great since that means, more costumes!

And there it is – the history of Halloween in a nut shell!

For more information, please follow these links:

History Channel’s Great and Telling Tales video snippets on Halloween

Atlas Obscura’s 31 Days of Halloween

The Smithsonian’s Smart News has a bit on Trick or Treating

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