What is Halloween?
If you live in America, you surely are aware of Halloween.
As a child, you might at one time have been scared of all those kids in their strange costumes. In time, however, you learned that YOU could wear a scary costume too and you could have fun at halloween parties and build up hours of unforgettable memories of trick or treating.
But, you might not be familiar with the origin and the real nature of the occasion. So, you might be asking yourself, ‘What is Halloween really?’
To begin with, Halloween could be traced to its ancient roots in the Celtic pagan feast of Samhain as well as the Christian holiday called All Saints’ Day. In general, it could be considered as a secular celebration. Some people have been expressing strong feelings for and against the perceived religious overtones. The modern Halloween celebration in he United States was brought by Irish immigrants who took with them the tradition when they migrated to North America during the height of the Great Famine of Ireland in the 1840s.
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Since then, Halloween has always been associated with orange and black, now considered the universal Halloween colors jsut as green and red have come to represent Christmas and are the dominate colors in Christmas decoration. These are associated with the popular symbols like jack-o’ lantern. Aside from the decors, the colors, and the symbols, Halloween has been made even more fun and interesting by the many activities that have created a unique modern tradition.
The occasion is now known for fun things, mainly for children, such as trick or treating, haunted houses, ghost tours, bonfires, costume parties, pranks, watching of horror movies, and reading of ghost stories. Halloween has also become that time of the year when people get in the mood by watching movies on TV, reading stories, or listening to anecdotes and documentaries about ghosts and paranormal encounters. Once upon a time, these sorts of things might scare most children, but, many now are changing gears and are seeing Halloween more as a fun celebration that highlights Fall, and leads us into Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Current Halloween celebration could be traced back to ancient origins, particularly the Samhain, a Gaelic festival. Samhain is an old Irish word that means ‘summer’s end.’ The same festival was also observed by ancient Britons who called their celebrations as Calan Gaeaf. Samhain commemorates the end of the year’s lighter half and the start of the darker half. Thus, some people then called the occasion as their ‘Celtic New Year.’
Nowadays, Halloween could be seen more as a festival for the dead. Ancient Gaels have always believed that Samhain borders the otherworld with this world. Thus, there was a belief that during Halloween, free spirits roam around, both harmful and harmless. This could be somehow related to Christians’ All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days. It has also been believed that wearing freaky masks and costumes was an effective way to ward off unwanted and harmful spirits.
Samhain was also regarded as a great time to stock food supplies and at the same time slaughter livestock. Bonfires have become important because they played significant roles in the Halloween festivities. In the old Irish practice, all fires at home were doused during the day and every home was lit only by the hearth from their own bonfire. Slaughtered livestock bones were cast into those fires.
There were also several other pagan rituals associated with old Halloween practices that have not been carried out to this day.
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