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Opinion

Real history of Halloween

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October 29, 2009

From the copious amounts of candy after trick-or-treating, to annual television specials involving a “Great Pumpkin,” Halloween is celebrated numerous ways each and every year.

It’s always a good time seeing what people come up with for costumes, no matter how perfectly or terribly done. I’ve seen everything from the Power Rangers and Mario Brothers, to some gentleman wrapped in blue yarn claiming that he was Bob Dylan’s “Tangled Up In Blue.” Out of pure curiosity, I wanted to know the “origins” of Halloween, and how/why people have celebrated Halloween for hundreds of years in comparison how our culture chooses to celebrate it today.

First, let’s start with the actual date of Oct. 31. Why is it significant? According to the History Channel, there was a group of people called “Celts” that lived in present day Ireland, England, and France, started their new year on November 1. The celebration of the “new year” prepared the Celts for a long and dark winter, which also was believed to coincide with human death. So on the eve of this day,

Oct. 31, the Celts believed that the realms of the living and the dead were sort of merged together. They celebrated the “Samhain,” which were ghosts that would return to earth and actually help these Celtic priests predict the future as a way to hopefully comfort one another regarding the long dark months ahead. The Celts would dress up in numerous different costumes and attempt to predict/foretell each other’s futures, as well as for strictly celebratory reasons. I’m sure that history left out the part when the Celts would get a couple kegs of Beast Ice and give out prizes for best costume. 

After numerous different influences from the Romans and various Christian cultures going into the 1000+ A.D. years, Oct. 31 eventually came to be known as “all hallows eve,” and eventually, just Halloween. This was because it preceded the Christian holiday of “All Saints Day,” which is a day to honor all of the saints and martyrs of the Christian faith. Nov. 2 is known as “All Souls Day,” which is actually believed to be the reason why we have our current tradition of “trick-or-treating.” During the festivities of this day in England (first accounted for), poorer citizens would beg for food from more well-off neighbors. Usually, these neighbors would give the poor “soul cakes” which were pastries given out in exchange that the poor would pray for dead relatives of the rich. Sounds like a fair trade off, I guess. When I take my nephew trick-or- treating this year, I’ll look the homeowners in the eye and say “I’m praying for your dead relatives,” I’m sure that will go over well. 

It’s not Halloween unless you carve up some pumpkins, right? The question is, where the hell did that tradition come from? According to LiveScience.com, it apparently has some “legendary” roots. There was supposedly an Irish farmer who had apparently had some run-ins with the devil himself. To the farmer’s dismay, he was turned away both from the gates of heaven and hell.  Forced to wander his time between earth and purgatory, he hollowed out a turnip and lit it with some coal to guide his soul along on his quest. Hearing about this man’s spirit, residents all around Ireland would make their own pumpkin carvings in hopes that they would scare the farmer’s and other evil spirits away from their homes. When I carve my pumpkins, I’m not worried about farmer Gary wanting to come by and hang out-it probably wouldn’t bother me. If he ever shows up though, now I’ll know why. 

There are so many fantastic ways that we celebrate this great holiday each and every year. I think it’s pretty crazy that we carve pumpkins to scare off some crazy farmer, or even go door to door asking for candy because beggars would get a special pastry in exchange for their prayers. Be safe kids, and enjoy your Halloween shenanigans!

Comments

Nikki Shonoiki on 14 Nov 2009: I have to agree with Debbie. America's a land of immigrants we take almost everything from other countries and cultures and especially other religions. Were talking about American culture which contrary to many peoples beliefs isn't always based on Christian beliefs. Christmas was based on a Pagan holiday, and etc. and etc. As for Matt's article, thanks, it was well done and fun to read. I'm starting to like the Student Voice again... it's been a while but I'm glad you all have started taken yourselves seriously as journalist.

Debbie on 02 Nov 2009: I think the only holidays that are really "ours" would be thanksgiving and the 4th of July, maybe memorial day and mardi gras. though every culture around the world has some equivalent of most of our holidays that are significant to them. maybe not on the same day, but most cultures have a day to celebrate the dead, like Mexico's day of the dead, etc.

lil on 30 Oct 2009: i thought halloween was a fun tradition

Kylie on 30 Oct 2009: I always thought halloween was an american tradition/celebration??

mina on 29 Oct 2009: You already got a viewer, congaratulation

Behle on 29 Oct 2009: Satanic holidays occur on different days around the world in order to set up a network of sacrifices 365 days a year. Sacrifices are made on every full moon. In terms of Halloween, this is the highest time of the year as Halloween is considered to be satan's birthday. Frequently it is called "The Harvest Feast". The rituals and sacrifices to celebrate this time of the year are not ust on Halloween night. They run from October 15 through to November 15.

Tilly Brown on 29 Oct 2009: Just a point of cultural information -- the Celts were the original peoples of Ireland, France, SCOTLAND (rather large area to forget to mention), wales and Cornwall -- NOT England as such. If by England, the reporter meant Britain, then the article is not entirely accurate nor is it very polite. Scottish and Welsh people do not consider themselves English or as living in England as so many US citizens seem to be in the habit of saying. Seems a small point, but I see these misconceptions banded about too often.