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. On Halloween, to keep ghosts away from their houses, people would place bowls of food outside their homes to appease the ghosts and prevent them from attempting to enter. Halloween has always been a holiday filled with mystery, magic and superstition. It began as a Celtic end-of-summer festival during which people felt especially close to deceased relatives and friends.
For these friendly spirits, they set places at the dinner table, left treats on doorsteps and along the side of the road and lit candles to help loved ones find their way back to the spirit world. We avoid crossing paths with black cats, afraid that they might bring us bad luck. This idea has its roots in the Middle Ages , when many people believed that witches avoided detection by turning themselves into black cats. We try not to walk under ladders for the same reason. This superstition may have come from the ancient Egyptians, who believed that triangles were sacred it also may have something to do with the fact that walking under a leaning ladder tends to be fairly unsafe.
And around Halloween, especially, we try to avoid breaking mirrors, stepping on cracks in the road or spilling salt. Many of these obsolete rituals focused on the future instead of the past and the living instead of the dead. In particular, many had to do with helping young women identify their future husbands and reassuring them that they would someday—with luck, by next Halloween—be married.
In 18th-century Ireland, a matchmaking cook might bury a ring in her mashed potatoes on Halloween night, hoping to bring true love to the diner who found it. In Scotland, fortune-tellers recommended that an eligible young woman name a hazelnut for each of her suitors and then toss the nuts into the fireplace. In some versions of this legend, the opposite was true: The nut that burned away symbolized a love that would not last. Another tale had it that if a young woman ate a sugary concoction made out of walnuts, hazelnuts and nutmeg before bed on Halloween night she would dream about her future husband.
Other rituals were more competitive. At some Halloween parties, the first guest to find a burr on a chestnut-hunt would be the first to marry; at others, the first successful apple-bobber would be the first down the aisle. Start your free trial today. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! Subscribe for fascinating stories connecting the past to the present. In countries such as Ireland, Canada Trick-or-treating—going from house to house in search of candy and other goodies—has been a popular Halloween tradition in the United States and other countries for an estimated years.
But the origins of this community-based ritual, which costumed children typically savor Halloween is nearly here, so grocery stores, coffee A blend of Mesoamerican ritual, European religion and Spanish culture, the Who will you be for Halloween? Whether your desired look is high-flying, power-wielding, old-school witchy—or just plain badass, history provides endless inspiration.
Below, some of our favorite costume ideas from the past, complete with a handy-dandy info Every October, carved pumpkins peer out from porches and doorsteps in the United States and other parts of the world. This festival is believed to have been a celebration of the end of the harvest, and a time of preparation for the coming winter.
It is widely accepted that the early church missionaries chose to hold a festival at this time of year in order to absorb existing native Pagan practices into Christianity, thereby smoothing the conversion process. A letter Pope Gregory I sent to Bishop Mellitus in the 6th century, in which he suggested that existing places of non-Christian worship be adopted and consecrated to serve a Christian purpose, is often provided as supporting evidence of this method of acculturation.
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Encyclopaedia Britannica states that this date may have been chosen "in an effort to supplant the Pagan holiday with a Christian observance". The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions also claims that Hallowe'en "absorbed and adopted the Celtic new year festival, the eve and day of Samhain".
Festivals commemorating the saints as opposed to the original Christian martyrs appear to have been observed by In England and Germany, this celebration took place on 1st November. In Ireland, it was commemorated on 20th April, a chronology that contradicts the widely held view that the November date was chosen to Christianize the festival of Samhain. Certainly the festival of Samhain, meaning Summer's End, was by far the most important of the four quarter days in the medieval Irish calendar, and there was a sense that this was the time of year when the physical and supernatural worlds were closest and magical things could happen, but however strong the evidence in Ireland, in Wales it was 1st May and New Year which took precedence, in Scotland there is hardly any mention of it until much later, and in Anglo-Saxon England even less.
Heavy Irish immigration into the Scottish Highlands and Isles in the early Middle Ages carried the name Samhain there, in local variations, but to the Welsh the day was 'Calan Gaeaf', 'the first day of winter', and the night before was termed 'Nos Galan Gaea', winter's eve'. Perhaps significantly, the earliest Welsh literature attributes no arcane significance to these dates in sharp contrast to May Eve and describes no gatherings then in sharp contrast to New Year.
British Folk Customs. Hutchinson, Oral folk-tales of Wessex. The Washington Post. It is the medieval Christian festivals of All Saints' and All Souls' that provide our firmest foundation for Halloween. From emphasizing dead souls both good and evil , to decorating skeletons, lighting candles for processions, building bonfires to ward off evil spirits, organizing community feasts, and even encouraging carnival practices like costumes, the medieval and early modern traditions of "Hallowtide" fit well with our modern holiday.
Lathrop , Fortress Press, p. Archived from the original on 18 September Retrieved 19 September Cambridge University Press. Archived from the original on 30 October Retrieved 25 October Nicholas Magazine. And this custom became so favored in popular esteem that, for a long time, it was a regular observance in the country towns of England for small companies to go from parish to parish, begging soul-cakes by singing under the windows some such verse as this: 'Soul, souls, for a soul-cake; Pray you good mistress, a soul-cake!
A Cultural Encyclopedia of the Human Face. Trick-or-treating began as souling an English and Irish tradition in which the poor, wearing masks, would go door to door and beg for soul cakes in exchange for people's dead relatives. Compendium of Symbolic and Ritual Plants in Europe. Quote: "Soul cakes were small cakes baked as food for the deceased or offered for the salvation of their souls. They were therefore offered at funerals and feasts of the dead, laid on graves, or given to the poor as representatives of the dead.
The baking of these soul cakes is a universal practice". Cake: A Slice of History. Pegasus Books. Like the perennial favourites, hot cross buns; they were often marked with a cross to indicate that they were baked as alms. Cambria Press. Pelican Publishing Company. Villagers were also encouraged to masquerade on this day, not to frighten unwelcome spirits, but to honor Christian saints.
Poor churches could not afford genuine relics and instead had processions in which parishioners dressed as saints, angels and devils. It served the new church by giving an acceptable Christian basis to the custom of dressing up on Halloween. The Halloween Handbook. Kensington Publishing Corporation. Another contributor to the custom of dressing up at Halloween was the old Irish practice of marking All Hallows' Day with religious pageants that recounted biblical events. These were common during the Middle Ages all across Europe.
The featured players dressed as saints and angels, but there were also plenty of roles for demons who had more fun, capering, acting devilish, and playing to the crows. The pageant began inside the church, then moved by procession to the churchyard, where it continued long into the night. Pelican Publishing, Ghosts in Popular Culture and Legend. Since the 16th century, costumes have become a central part of Halloween traditions.
Perhaps the most common traditional Halloween costume is that of the ghost. This is likely because The baking and sharing of souls cakes was introduced around the 15th century: in some cultures, the poor would go door to door to collect them in exchange for praying for the dead a practice called souling , often carrying lanterns made of hollowed-out turnips. Around the 16th century, the practice of going house to house in disguise a practice called guising to ask for food began and was often accompanied by recitation of traditional verses a practice called mumming.
Wearing costumes, another tradition, has many possible explanations, such as it was done to confuse the spirits or souls who visited the earth or who rose from local graveyards to engage in what was called a Danse Macabre, basically a large party among the dead. University of Pennsylvania Press. Halloween, incorporated into the Christian year as the eve of All Saints Day, marked the return of the souls of the departed and the release of devils who could move freely on that night.
Fires lit on that night served to prevent the influence of such spirits and to provide omens for the future. Modern children go from house to house at Halloween with flashlights powered by electric batteries, while jack o'lanterns perhaps with an actual candle, but often with a lightbulb glow from windows and porches.
Halloween Origins, Facts & Traditions - HISTORY
And even then, the educated folk of the districts concerned, declared that these fires were a relic of papistical days, when they were lit at night to guide the poor souls back to earth. Christianity Today. Sometimes enacted as at village pageants, the danse macabre was also performed as court masques, the courtiers dressing up as corpses from various strata of society Halloween in der Steiermark und anderswo. On the other hand the postmodern phenomenon of "antifashion" is also to be found in some Halloween costumes.
Black and orange are a 'must' with many costumes. Halloween — like the medieval danse macabre — is closely connected with superstitions and it might be a way of dealing with death in a playful way. Gorham, p. Christian Origins of Halloween. Rose Publishing. In Protestant regions souling remained an important occasion for soliciting food and money from rich neighbors in preparation for the coming cold and dark months. Fires were indeed lit in England on All Saints' Day, notably in Lancashire, and may well ultimately have descended from the same rites, but were essentially party of a Christian ceremony Each did so on a hill near its homestead, one person holding a large bunch of burning straw on the end of a fork.
The rest in a circle around and prayed for the souls of relatives and friends until the flames burned out. The author who recorded this custom added that it gradually died out in the latter part of the century, but that before it had been very common and at nearby Whittingham such fires could be seen all around the horizon at Hallowe'en.
He went on to say that the name 'Purgatory Field', found across northern Lancashire, testified to an even wider distribution, and that the rite itself was called 'Teen'lay'. Halloween in a Globalising World". Gunnell and Co. The Halloween Encyclopedia. Archived from the original on 27 July Frank Leslie's popular monthly, Volume 40, November , pp. Archived from the original on 11 May Retrieved 23 October Why, it will gleam through the holes, and make thee look like a jack-o'-lantern! Schakel , Bucknell University Press, p. New York: Oxford University Press.
Legends and Lore of South Carolina. The History Press. The practice of dressing up and going door to door for treats dates back to the middle ages and the practice of souling. Halloween Delights. Whispering Pine Press International. The tradition continued in some areas of northern England as late as the s, with children going from door to door "souling" for cakes or money by singing a song.
Collins English Dictionary.
Archived from the original on 14 October Wright, "A Halloween Story", St. Nicholas , October , p. The Chicago Tribune also mentioned door-to-door begging in Aurora, Illinois on Halloween in , although not by the term 'trick-or-treating'. The Guardian.
Retrieved 29 October Archived from the original on 4 June Retrieved 17 October Stackpole Books. All Hallows' Eve. A time of spiritual unrest, when the souls of the dead, along with ghosts and evil spirits, were believed to walk the land. Church bells were run and fires lit to guide these souls on their way and deflect them from haunting honest Christian folk. Barns and homes were blessed to protect people and livestock from the effects of witches, who were believed to accompany the malignant spirits as they traveld the earth.
Although a rare few continued to divine the future, cast spells, and tell ghost stories in rural communities, woe to anyone who was denounced to the church for engaging in such activities. These may seem like innocent fun today, but it was deadly serious stuff during the Middle Ages.
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Celtic Myth and Religion. McFarland, Mercier Press, Parlor Games for the Wise and Otherwise. Philadelphia: Penn Publishing Company. Archived from the original on 8 December Vintage Holiday Crafts. Archived from the original on 29 September Retrieved 28 October Hudson Valley Magazine. Retrieved 6 October NBC Bay Area. Archived from the original on 27 October Retrieved 21 July America Haunts.
Archived from the original on 8 March United Kingdom: Reaktion Books. Disney Editions. Inside The Magic. Archived from the original on 30 September Retrieved 22 July House of Doom. Archived from the original on 25 April Retrieved 8 August Catalog of Copyright Entries: Third Series. July — December The New York Times. Archived from the original on 1 May Retrieved 20 November Archived from the original on 25 March Retrieved 9 August Archived from the original on 28 August Archived from the original on 13 August Archived PDF from the original on 15 February Retrieved 29 September Archived from the original on 30 July Retrieved 12 July Archived from the original on 7 November Retrieved 3 November Simmer Magazine.
Archived from the original on 5 October Retrieved 3 October All Hallow's Eve was a Western Anglo Christian holiday that revolved around commemorating the dead using humor to intimidate death itself.
Like all holidays, All Hallow's Eve involved traditional treats. The church encouraged an abstinence from meat, which created many vegetarian dishes. Archived from the original on 11 January Retrieved 23 January Ireland Central. Pelican Publishing. Polish Catholics taught their children to pray out loud as they walked through the woods so that the souls of the dead could hear them and be comforted.
Priests in tiny Spanish villages still ring their church bells to remind parishioners to honor the dead on All Hallows Eve.
Hallowe'en: a history of All Hallows' Eve, from Samhain to trick-or-treat
Andrew James Harvey 31 October The Patriot Post. Or "Halloween" for short — a fixture on the liturgical calendar of the Christian West since the seventh century. Catholic News Agency. Archived from the original on 24 May The Vigil is based on the monastic office of Vigils or Matins , when the monks would arise in the middle of the night to pray. On major feast days, they would have an extended service of readings scriptural, patristic, and from lives of the saints in addition to chanting the psalms. This all would be done in the dark, of course, and was an opportunity to listen carefully to the Word of God as well as the words of the Church Fathers and great saints.
The Vigil of All Saints is an adaptation of this ancient practice, using the canonical office of Compline at the end. Cor et Lumen Christi Community. Archived from the original on 23 October Retrieved 2 November In its first year — AD — over people participated from several countries. This included special All Saints Vigil masses, extended periods of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and parties for children.
In our second year 10, participated. Since these modest beginnings, the Night of Light has been adopted in many countries around the world with vast numbers involved each year from a Cathedral in India to a convent in New Zealand; from Churches in the US and Europe to Africa; in Schools, churches, homes and church halls all ages have got involved.
Although it began in the Catholic Church it has been taken up be other Christians who while keeping its essentials have adapted it to suit their own traditions. The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 3 April Retrieved 6 November It was invented in , in leafy Chertsey, Surrey, when perhaps 1, people took part.
Ancient Origins of Halloween
Now it is a worldwide movement, popular in Africa and the United States. The heart of the Night of Light is an all-night vigil of prayer, but there is room for children's fun too: sweets, perhaps a bonfire and dressing up as St George or St Lucy. The minimum gesture is to put a lighted candle in the window, which is in itself too exciting for some proponents of health and safety. The inventor of the Night of Light is Damian Stayne, the founder of a year-round religious community called Cor et Lumen Christi — heart and light of Christ. This new movement is Catholic, orthodox and charismatic — emphasising the work of the Holy Spirit.
An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church. The BOS notes that "suitable festivities and entertainments" may precede of follow the service, and there may be a visit to a cemetery or burial place. My folks are Polish and they celebrate Halloween in a different way. It is time to remember your dead and visit the cemetery and graves of your loved ones. The Church of England. Archived from the original on 18 May Christianity needs to make clear its positive message for young people.
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