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holiday celebrated on the night of October 31.
Evolved from a Druid harvest holiday, a Roman festival known as Pomona Day and the Christian "Day of the Dead".
On October 31st after crops were harvested Druids in Britain would light fires and offer sacrifices of crops and animals. As they danced around the fires, the season of the sun passed and the season of darkness would begin. When the morning of November 1 arrived, the Druids would give an ember from their fires to each family who would then take them home to start new cooking fires. These fires would keep the homes warm and free from evil spirits. A 3 day festival called Samhain (pronounced "sow-en") followed.
The Romans invaded Britain in the 1st century and brought with them the festival known as Pomona Day, named for the goddess of fruits and gardens. It was celebrated around the 1st of November.
In the 7th century, Pope Boniface IV introduced All Saints' Day to replace the pagan festival of the dead. It was observed on May 13. Later, Gregory III changed the date to November 1.
October 31st became known as All Hallow Even, eventually All Hallow's Eve, Hallowe'en, and then - Halloween.
The custom of trick-or-treating is thought to have evolved from the 9th-century European custom called souling. On November 2, All Souls Day, Christians would walk from village to village begging for "soul cakes" - square pieces of bread with currants. Beggars would promise to say prayers on behalf of dead relatives helping the soul's passage to heaven.
Irish emigrants from the Irish Potato Famine of 1845-46 brought with them the holiday of Halloween to the United States.
Some Christian groups consider Halloween a Pagan holiday and refer to it as "The most evil day of the year".
Halloween is associated with trick-or-treating, ghost stories, pumpkins, jack o'lanterns, witches, black cats, costumes, and parties. Children often dress up in costumes and knock on neighborhood doors saying, "Trick or Treat".
The holiday of Samhain is celebrated by Neopagans .
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This article is about the holiday. For the Halloween movies, see Halloween (movie).
Halloween or Halloweve is a holiday celebrated in much of the Western world on the night of October 31, the night before All Saints Day (Nov. 1). Originating in Ireland, and brought to the United States by Irish emigrants in the 19th century. It is now associated with ghosts, trick-or-treating, candy corn, ghost stories, pumpkins, jack o'lanterns, witches, black cats, costumes, parties and banshees . Children often dress up in costumes and knock on neighborhood doors saying, "Trick or Treat" and receiving candy, originally in return for a joke, a song, or some other trick.
CustomsThere are several traditional games associated with Halloween parties. The most common is bobbing for apples, in which a tub or a large basin is filled with water in which apples float. The participants must remove an apple from the basin using only their mouths. Naturally everyone gets wet. Another common game involves hanging up treacle or syrup-coated scones by strings. These must be eaten without using hands while they remain attached to the string, an activity which inevitably leads to a very sticky face.Another game, Púicíní (pronounced "pook-eeny"), a form of "Blindfold", is played in Ireland. A blindfolded person was seated in front of a table on which are placed several saucers.The saucers are shuffled and the seated person then choses one by touch. The contents of the saucer determine the the person's life for the following year.A saucer containing earth means someone known to the player will die during the next year. A saucer containing water foretells travel, a coin means new wealth and a bean means poverty etc.
A Halloween custom which has survived unscathed to this day in Ireland is the baking, or, more often nowadays, the purchase of a barm brack (Ir. "báirín breac"). This is a light fruit cake into which a plain ring is placed before baking. It is said that whoever finds this ring will find his or her true love over the following year.
HistoryAlthough modern Halloween is a secular holiday, it evolved from several pagan holidays.
Its earliest roots are found in the Druidic holiday of death which took place each year on October 31 and was held in honour of Samhain, Lord of the Dead. After the crops were harvested, Druids in Ireland and Britain would light fires and offer sacrifices of crops and animals. As they danced around the fires, the season of the sun passed and the season of darkness would begin. When the morning of November 1 arrived, the Druids would give an ember from their fires to each family who would then take them home to start new cooking fires. These fires were believed to keep the homes warm and free from evil spirits, as it was considered a time of year when the veils were thin between worlds. A three-day festival called Samhain (pronounced "sow-inn") followed. In Ireland it was believed to be the night on which the invisible "gates" between this world and the Other World were opened and free movement between both worlds was possible. In the Other World lived the immortal "Shee", the female members of whom were called Banshees.
Bonfires played a large part in the festivities. Villagers cast the bones of the slaughtered cattle upon the flames. (the word bonfire is thought to derive from these "bone fires.") With the bonfire ablaze, the villagers extinguished all other fires. Each family then solemnly lit their hearth from the common flame, thus bonding the families of the village together.
Like most Celtic festivals, it was celebrated on a number of levels. Materially speaking it was the time of gathering in of food for the long winter months ahead, bringing people and their livestock in to their winter quarters. To be alone and missing at this dangerous time was to expose yourself and your spirit to the perils of imminent winter. In present times the importance of this part of the festival has diminished for most people. From the point of view of a tribal people for whom a bad season meant facing a long winter of famine in which many would not survive to the spring, it was paramount.
This was the most evil time of the year. It was a Druidical belief that on the eve of this festival Samhain, lord of death, called together the wicked spirits that within the past 12 months had been condemned to inhabit the bodies of animals. During the night the great shield of Skathach was lowered, allowing the barriers between the worlds to fade and the forces of evil to invade the realms of order, the material world conjoining with the world of the dead. At this time ghosts, witches, hobgoblins, black cats, fairies and demons of all kinds roamed amongst the living. The dead could return to the places where they had lived and food and entertainment were provided to exorcize them. If food and shelter were not provided, these spirits would cast spells and cause havoc towards those failing to fulfill their requests.
It was the time to placate the supernatural powers controlling the processes of nature. In addition, Halloween was thought to be the most favorable time for divinations concerning marriage, luck, health and death. It was the only day on which the help of the devil was invoked for such purposes. The pagan observances influenced the Christian festival of All Hallows Eve.
On the level of cosmic event, the rising of Pleiades, the winter stars, heralds the supremacy of night over day, the dark half ruled by the realms of the moon.
In the three days preceding the Samhain month the Sun God, Lugh, maimed at Lughnassadh, dies by the hand of his Tanist (his other self), the Lord of Misrule. Lugh traverses the boundaries of the worlds on the first day of Samhain. His Tanist is a miser and though he shines brightly in the winter skies he gives no warmth and does not temper the breath of the Crone, Cailleach Bheare, the north wind. In this may be discerned the ageless battle between the light and dark and the cyclic nature of life and the seasons.
In parts of western Brittany Samhain is still heralded by the baking of kornigou. Kornigou are cakes baked in the shape of antlers to commemorate the god of winter shedding his "cuckold" horns as he returns to his kingdom in the Otherworld.
After the Romans colonised much of Britain, elements of the Roman festival known as Pomona Day were also introduced. Pomona Day was held on November 1, and is named for Pomona, a Roman Goddess of fruits and gardens.
When Christianity eventually reached Ireland in 432 and Britain, conversion began among the local people, including Christianization of the old traditions. In the 7th century, Pope Boniface IV introduced All Saints' Day to replace the pagan festival of the dead. It was observed on May 13. Later, Pope Gregory III changed the date to November 1. October 31 became known as All Hallows Even, eventually All Hallows Eve, Hallowe'en (still used as the standard spelling in Ireland), and then Halloween in the US. Obsevance of Halloween faded in Britain from the 17th cetury onwards, being replaced by the commemoration of the Gunpowder Plot on November 5. It is only in the last decade that it has become popular in Britain again, although in an entirely Americanised version. It did, however, survive unscathed in Ireland. Nowadays in Ireland, the last Monday of October is a public holiday. All schools close for the following week for mid-term, commonly called the Hallowe'en Break. As a result Ireland is the only country where children never have school on Halloween and are therefore free to celebrate it in the ancient and time-honoured fashion.
The custom of trick-or-treating is thought to have evolved from the 9th century European custom called souling. On November 2, All Souls Day, Christians would walk from village to village begging for "soul cakes" - square pieces of bread with currants. Beggars would promise to say prayers on behalf of dead relatives helping the soul's passage to heaven.
Irish emigrants from the Irish Potato Famine of 1845-1846 brought with them the holiday of Halloween to the United States.
Religious ViewpointsSome fundamentalist Christian groups consider Halloween a Pagan holiday because of these early Pagan origins, and refer to it as "The most evil day of the year", refusing to allow their children to participate. Among these groups it is believed to still have Satanic influences, as are many other Pagan practices. Other Christians continue to connect this holiday with All Saints Day.
Neopagans also do not practice Halloween, but for different reasons. Instead of rejecting it because of its Pagan origins, they rather embrace the earlier Pagan practice and celebrate a version of the older Celtic festival of Samhain.
See also Day of the Dead
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Revision as of 21:25, 22 October 2005
The term "Halloween" derives from Hallowe'en, an old contraction, still retained in Scotland and some parts of Canada, of "All Hallow's Eve," so called as it is the day before All Saints day (observed by some Christians, including Roman Catholics), which used to be called "All Hallows," derived from All Hallowed Souls. In Ireland, the name was Hallow Eve and this name is still used by some older people. Halloween was formerly also sometimes called All Saints' Eve. The holiday was a day of religious festivities in various northern European pagan traditions, until it was appropriated by Christian missionaries (along with Christmas and Easter, two other traditional northern European pagan holidays) and given a Christian reinterpretation. In Mexico, All Saint's Day, following Halloween, is the Day of the Dead.
Halloween is also called Pooky Night in some parts of Ireland, presumably named after the púca, a mischievous spirit.
In the United Kingdom in particular, the pagan Celts celebrated the Day of the Dead on Halloween. The spirits supposedly rose from the dead and, in order to attract them, food was left on the doors. To scare off the evil spirits, the Celts wore masks. When the Romans invaded Britain, they embellished the tradition with their own, which is the celebration of the harvest and honoring the dead. These traditions were then passed on to the United States.
Halloween is sometimes associated with the occult. Many European cultural traditions hold that Halloween is one of the "liminal" times of the year when the spirit world can make contact with the natural world and when magic is most potent (see, for example, Catalan mythology about witches).
Anoka, Minnesota, USA, the self-proclaimed "Halloween Capital of the World," celebrates with a large civic parade.
Black and orange are the traditional colors of Halloween. In modern Halloween images and products, purple, green, and red are also prominent.
Elements of the autumn season, such as pumpkins and scarecrows, are also reflected in symbols of Halloween.
The jack-o'-lantern, a carved vegetable lit by a candle inside, is one of Halloween's most prominent symbols. In Britain and Ireland, a turnip was and sometimes still is used, but immigrants to America quickly adopted the pumpkin because it is much larger and easier to carve. Many families that celebrate Halloween carve a pumpkin into a frightening or comical face and place it on their home's doorstep after dark. The practice was originally intended to frighten away evil spirits or monsters. kkk
Trick-or-treatingThe main event of Halloween is trick-or-treating, also known as guising in Scotland, in which children dress up in costume disguises and go door-to-door in their neighborhood, ringing each doorbell and yelling "trick or treat!" The occupants of the house (who might themselves dress in a scary costume) will then hand out small candies, miniature chocolate bars or other treats. Homes sometimes use sound effects and fog machines to help set a spooky mood. Other house decoration themes (that are less scary) are used to entertain younger visitors. Children can often accumulate many treats on Halloween night, filling up entire pillow cases or shopping bags.
In Scotland, children or guisers are likely to recite "The sky is blue, the grass is green, may we have our Halloween" instead of "trick or treat!", they will then have to impress the members of the houses they visit with a song, trick, joke or dance in order to earn their treats.
In parts of Canada, children are more likely to say "Halloween apples" instead of "trick or treat." This probably originated when the toffee apple was a popular type of candy. However, there are some children today who say "Halloween apples" instead of "Trick or treat" because sometimes if the latter was said, the person at the door would take it as a question (i.e trick or treat?) and ask them to perform a trick instead of giving them a treat.
Tricks play less of a role in modern Halloween, though the night before Halloween is often marked by pranks such as soaping windows, egging houses or stringing toilet paper through trees. Before indoor plumbing was so widespread, tipping over or displacing outhouses was a popular form of trick.
Typical Halloween costumes have traditionally been monsters such as vampires, ghosts, witches, and devils. The stereotypical Halloween costume is a sheet with eyeholes cut in it as a ghost costume. In 19th-century Scotland and Ireland the reason for wearing such fearsome (and non-fearsome) costumes was the belief that since the spirits that were abroad that night were essentially intent on doing harm, the best way to avoid this was to fool the spirits into believing that you were one of them. In recent years, it has become common for costumes to be based on themes other than traditional horror, such as dressing up as a character from a TV show or movie, or choosing a recognizable face from the public sphere, such as a politician (in 2004, for example, George W. Bush and John F. Kerry were both popular costumes in America). In 2001, after the September 11 attacks, for example, costumes of firefighters, police officers, and United States military personnel became popular among children. In 2004, an estimated 2.15 million children in the United States were expected to dress up as Spider Man, the year's most popular costume. 
"'Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF" has become a common sight during Halloween in America, Canada, and Mexico. Started by UNICEF in 1950, the program involves the distribution of small boxes by schools to trick-or-treaters, in which they can solicit small change donations from the houses they visit. It is estimated that children have collected more than $119 million for UNICEF since its inception.
BIGresearch conducted a survey for the National Retail Federation in the US and found that 53.3% of consumers planned to buy a costume for Halloween 2005, spending $38.11 on average (up 10 dollars from last year). An estimate of $3.3 billion was made for the holiday spending.
A child usually "grows out of" trick-or-treating by his or her teenage years. Teenagers and adults instead often celebrate Halloween with costume parties, staying home to give out candy, scaring people half to death, or other social get-togethers.
Games and other activitiesThere are several games traditionally associated with Halloween parties. The most common is bobbing for apples, in which apples float in a tub or a large basin of water; the participants must use their teeth to remove an apple from the basin. Another common game involves hanging up treacle or syrup-coated scones by strings; these must be eaten without using hands while they remain attached to the string, an activity which inevitably leads to a very sticky face.
Some games traditionally played at Halloween are forms of divination. In Puicíní (pronounced "pook-eeny"), a game played in Ireland, a blindfolded person is seated in front of a table on which are placed several saucers. The saucers are shuffled and the seated person then chooses one by touch. The contents of the saucer determine the person's life for the following year. A saucer containing earth means someone known to the player will die during the next year, a saucer containing water foretells travel, a coin means new wealth, a bean means poverty, etc. In 19th-century Ireland, young women placed slugs in saucers sprinkled with flour. The wriggling of the slugs and the patterns subsequently left behind on the saucers were believed to portray the faces of the women's future spouses.
In North America, unmarried women were frequently told that if they sat in a darkened room and gazed into a mirror on Halloween night, the face of their future husband would appear in the mirror. However, if they were destined to die before they married, a skull would appear. The custom was widespread enough to be commemorated on greeting cards from the late nineteenth century.
The telling of ghost stories and viewing of horror films are common fixtures of Halloween parties. Television specials with a Halloween theme, usually aimed at children, are commonly aired on or before the holiday.
Foodscandy apples (also known as toffee apples) are a common treat at Halloween. They are made by rolling whole apples in a sticky sugar syrup, and sometimes then rolling them in nuts. At one time candy apples were a common treat given to children, but this practice rapidly waned after widespread rumors that some individuals were embedding items like pins and razor blades in the apples that they would pass out to children. The vast majority of the reported cases turned out to be hoaxes, and the few that were real caused only minor injuries, but many parents were under the assumption that the practice was common. At the peak of this hysteria, some hospitals were offering to x-ray children's Halloween haul at no cost in order to look for such items.
A Halloween custom which has survived unchanged to this day in Ireland is the baking (or more often nowadays the purchase) of a barmbrack (Irish "báirín breac"). This is a light fruit cake into which a plain ring is placed before baking. It is said that whoever finds this ring will find his or her true love during the following year.
Other foods associated with the holiday:
Celtic observation of SamhainIn the Druidic religion of the ancient Celts, the new year began with the winter season of Samhain on November 1. Just as shorter days signified the start of the new year, sundown also meant the start of a new day; therefore the harvest festival began every year on the night of October 31. Druids in the British Isles would light fires and offer sacrifices of crops. And as they danced around the fires, the season of the sun would pass and the season of Samhain would begin.
When the morning of November 1 arrived, the Druids would give an ember from their fires to each family who would then take it home to start a new cooking fire. These fires were intended to keep the homes warm and free from evil spirits such as "Sidhe" (pronounced "shee," most notable of which are the beán sidhe or banshees), because at this time of year it was believed that the invisible "gates" between this world and the spirit world were opened and free movement between both worlds was possible.
Bonfires played a large part in the festivities. Villagers cast the bones of the slaughtered cattle upon the flames; the word "bonfire" is thought to derive from these "bone fires." With the bonfire ablaze, the villagers extinguished all other fires. Each family then solemnly lit their hearth from the common flame, thus bonding the families of the village together. Hundreds of fires are still lit each year in Ireland on Halloween night.
Neopagans still celebrate the sabbat of Samhain on Halloween, as well as also taking part in secular Halloween activities.
Norse Elven BlótIn the old Norse religion and its modern revival Ásatrú, the day now known as Halloween was a blót which involved sacrifices to the elves and the blessing of food.
A poem from around 1020, the Austrfaravísur ('Eastern-journey verses') of Sigvatr Þorðarson, mentions that, as a Christian, he was refused board in a heathen household, in Sweden, because an álfablót ("elves' sacrifice") was being conducted there. However, we have no further reliable information as to what an álfablót involved, but like other blóts it probably included the offering of foods, and later Scandinavian folklore retained a tradition of sacrificing treats to the elves. From the time of year (close to the autumnal equinox) and the elves' association with fertility and the ancestors, we might assume that it had to do with the ancestor cult and the life force of the family.
Halloween customsObservance of Halloween faded in the South of England from the 17th century onwards, being replaced by the commemoration of the Gunpowder Plot on November 5. However it remained popular in Scotland, Ireland and the North of England. It is only in the last decade that it again became popular in the South of England, but as an entirely Americanized version.
The custom survives most accurately in Ireland, where the last Monday of October is a public holiday. All schools close for the following week for mid-term, commonly called the Halloween Break. As a result Ireland is the only country where children never have school on Halloween and are therefore free to celebrate it in the ancient and time-honored fashion.
The custom of trick-or-treating is thought to have evolved from the European custom called souling, similar to the wassailing customs associated with Yule. On November 2, All Souls' Day, beggars would walk from village to village begging for "soul cakes" - square pieces of bread with currants. Christians would promise to say prayers on behalf of dead relatives helping the soul's passage to heaven. The distribution of soul cakes was encouraged by the church as a way to replace the ancient practice of leaving food and wine for roaming spirits at the Samhain. See Puck (mythology).
In Celtic parts of western Brittany, Samhain is still heralded by the baking of kornigou. Kornigou are cakes baked in the shape of antlers to commemorate the god of winter shedding his "cuckold" horns as he returns to his kingdom in the Otherworld.
"Punkie Night""Punkie Night" is observed on the last Thursday in October in the village of Hinton St. George in the county of Somerset in England. On this night, children carry lanterns made from hollowed-out mangel-wurzels (a kind of beet; in modern days, pumpkins are used) with faces carved into them. They bring these around the village, collecting money and singing the punkie song. Punkie is derived from pumpkin or punk, meaning tinder.
Though the custom is only attested over the last century, and the mangel-wurzel itself was introduced into English agriculture in the late 18th century, "Punkie Night" appears to be much older even than the fable that now accounts for it. The story goes that the wives of Hinton St. George went looking for their wayward husbands at the fair held nearby at Chiselborough, the last Thursday in October, but first hollowed out mangel wurzels in order to make lanterns to light their way. The drunken husbands saw the eerie lights, thought they were "goolies" (the restless spirits of children who had died before they were baptized), and fled in terror. Children carry the punkies now. The event has spread since about 1960 to the neighboring village of Chiselborough.
Sources: on-line report from the Western Gazette and a National Geographic radio segment. Chiselborough Fair is memorialized by Fair Place in the village. The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868) reported that there was "a fair for horses and cattle on the last Thursday in October."
"Mischief Night"The night before Halloween, known in some areas as "Mischief Night", "Mizzie Night", "Gate Night", "Cabbage Night", "Goosie Night (Goosy,Goosey)" or "Devil's Night," is often associated with pranks or destructive activities performed by adolescents. Some of the acts range from minor vandalism to theft, or even arson. Many youths involved in mischief night would be considered too old for traditional trick-or-treating. The most common wrong-doing is toilet papering or "T.P.ing", in which people's houses, lawns, and trees are covered in toilet paper streamers.
Perhaps the most elaborate example of a Mischief Night prank was Orson Welles' radio dramatization of The War of the Worlds, originally aired on October 30, 1938. Welles' broadcast, which purported to be a live newscast detailing the invasion of the United States by Martians, was accepted as real by many listeners and created a public panic in some areas of the country.
A dialect survey begun in 1999 by Harvard University indicates that there are a number of terms for this particular day of the year, but that the vast majority (70.38%) have no special word for it.
Religious viewpointsThe majority of Christians ascribe no doctrinal significance to Halloween, treating it as a purely secular entity devoted to celebrating imaginary spooks and handing out candy. The secular celebration of Halloween may loom larger in contemporary imagination than does All Saints' Day.
The mingling of Christian and pagan traditions in the development of Halloween, and its real or assumed preoccupation with evil and the supernatural, have left many modern Christians uncertain of how they should react towards the holiday. Some fundamentalist and evangelical along with many Eastern Orthodox Christians and Orthodox Jewish believers consider Halloween a pagan or Satanic holiday, and refuse to allow their children to participate. In some areas, complaints from fundamentalist Christians that the schools were endorsing a pagan religion have led the schools to stop distributing UNICEF boxes at Halloween.
Other Christians, however, continue to connect the holiday with All Saints Day. Some modern Christian churches commonly offer a "fall festival" or harvest-themed alternative to Halloween celebrations. Still other Christians hold the view that the holiday is not Satanic in origin or practice and that it holds no threat to the spiritual lives of children: being taught about death and mortality actually being a valuable life lesson.
Ironically, considering that most fundamentalist sects are Protestant in nature, many Protestant denominations celebrate October 31 as Reformation Day, which commemorates the October 31, 1517 posting of Martin Luther's Ninety-Five Theses. Many mainline churches and religious schools, particularly Lutheran ones, meld the two holidays without worrying about "Satanic influences."
- Halloween origins; Australian customs
- Halloween in France
- Various Christian Views of Halloween from a conservative Calvinist perspective
- Snopes' Urban Legends reference page on the hysteria about pins and razor blades being found in Halloween candy
- Truth About Halloween Traditions
- All Hallows Eve, Halloween's Christian Roots from American Catholic
- National Retail Foundation satistics on Halloween
- Diane C. Arkins, Halloween: Romantic Art and Customs of Yesteryear, Pelican Publishing Company (2000). 96 pages. ISBN 1565547128
- Diane C. Arkins, Halloween Merrymaking: An Illustrated Celebration Of Fun, Food, And Frolics From Halloweens Past, Pelican Publishing Company (2004). 112 pages. ISBN 158980113X
- Phyllis Galembo, Dressed for Thrills: 100 Years of Halloween Costumes and Masquerade, Harry N. Abrams (2002). 128 pages. ISBN 0810932911
- Jean Markale, The Pagan Mysteries of Halloween: Celebrating the Dark Half of the Year (translation of Halloween, histoire et traditions), Inner Traditions (2001). 160 pages. ISBN 0892819006
- Lisa Morton, The Halloween Encyclopedia, McFarland & Company (2003). 240 pages. ISBN 078641524X
- Nicholas Rogers, Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night, Oxford University Press (2002). 198 pages. ISBN 0195146913
- Jack Santino (ed.), Halloween and Other Festivals of Death and Life, University of Tennessee Press (1994). 280 pages. ISBN 0870498134
A Product of Endless Gnoming
It goes without saying that this article on a simple one-night folk holiday has become a ridiculous epic unto itself, full of deletes, rev-deletes, good edits buried by crap only to be uncovered again - in fact it is being worked on right now, after Halloween itself has ended. I looked and found no names I recognized, so this appears to be a fetish of the sorts of people who look like they just walked out of a Siouxie Sioux video, the people for whom Halloween is the Grand Day of the Year. Doesn't really matter, the gnoming will go on until Wikipedia collapses and the page is turned into a file on a thumb-drive sold to the Third World for "education" purposes.