Get Daily updates directly to your inbox Halloween on October 31 is a shortened version of All Hallows Evening – the night before the Christian feast of All Hallows Day, also known as All Saints Day. It starts the three-day festival of All Hallowstide, the time in the Christian calendar to remember the dead including martyrs and saints. But before Christianity there was a pagan festival of Samhain at the same time of year. Dating to the Celtic era, with traditions still celebrated in Gaelic communities including Scotland and Ireland on October 31, it marked the end of harvest and the start of winter. It was also seen as the time of year when the boundary between the world of the living and the world of the fairies and spirits of the dead became blurred and they would return. ThatБs where the traditions of dressing up as ghosts and witches is believed to come from, perhaps to ward off evil spirits. Playing pranks is common on Halloween in some part of the country, blaming mischief on the fairies or spirits. Other Halloween traditions include making pumpkin face lanterns lit with a candle – again as a charm against evil spirits. Bobbing for apples – trying to catch hold of apples in a barrel or bowl of water using just your teeth – dates back generations. ItБs been suggested that the carving of pumpkins into faces, also known as jack-of-lanterns, began in Ireland, using turnips and potatoes.
Pumpkins were brought into the tradition in the United States by Irish immigrants. In Somerset, thereБs a tradition known as Punkie Night, where Punkie is an Old English name for lantern. On the last Thursday of October, children would walk the streets begging for candles, carrying a lantern, and threatening those who would not hand one over. Lanterns were also hung on farm gates to ward off evil spirits. A similar tradition of minor troublemaking by children, known as Mischief Night, takes place in some parts of the country around the same time. The modern trick or treating, when children go door to door to collect sweets, is a more recent import from the United States. Traditionally at Samhain fires were important and had a ritual and cleansing role, cattle were brought in from the pastures and animals were slaughtered ahead of winter. It was also a time to make predictions, and some folklorists have suggested it was the start of the Celtic new year. One Halloween fortune-telling tradition is recounted by James Whinray in his book Devon Customs and Superstitions. On Halloween, the fire grate would be cleared of ashes and the fire made to burn brightly. Each girl would place a hazel nut on the grate, and wait for what happened.
An old Devon saying predicts: БShe whose nut first blazes, will be the first to marry. She whose nut first cracks, will be jilted. She whose nut first jumps, will soon start on a journey but will never marry. She whose nut smoulders, will have sickness, disappointment in love, and perhaps die young. Б
Samhain was one of the four quarter festival of the Celtic people whose civilisation was at its height before being crushed by the Roman Empire in the first century BC onwards. The Celtic people measured the start of a day at sunset- hence the start of the festival on the eve of All Hallows Day. In the Gaelic world of Ireland, the isle of Man and Scotland, it marks the half-way period between the autumn equinox – equal hours of day and night – and the winter solstice – the shortest day. A similar festival has carried on into recent times in other Celtic lands, such as Wales, Brittany and Cornwall, where it is known as Kalan Gwav – meaning the first day of winter. Also known as Allantide in Cornwall after a 6th Century Bishop, one of the traditions was the gift of highly polished apples as a token of good luck. The has a long history with, although our favorite demonic faces havenвt always been carved out of pumpkins.
Their origin comes from an Irish myth about Stingy Jack, who tricked the Devil for his own monetary gain. When Jack died, God didnвt allow him into heaven, and the Devil didnвt let him into hell, so Jack was sentenced to roam the earth for eternity. In Ireland, people started to carve demonic faces out of turnips to frighten away Jackвs wandering soul. When Irish immigrants moved to the U. S. , they began carving jack-oв-lanterns from, as these were native to the region. But how did jack-oв-lanterns become associated with Halloween? Halloween is based on the Celtic festival, a celebration in ancient Britain and Ireland that marked the end of summer and the beginning of the new year on November 1. It was believed that during Samhain the souls of those who had died that year traveled to the otherworld and that other souls would return to visit their homes. In the 8th century CE, the Roman Catholic Church moved, a day celebrating the churchвs saints, to November 1. This meant that All Hallowsв Eve (or Halloween) fell on October 31. Traditions from Samhain remained, such as wearing disguises to hide yourself from the souls wandering around your home. The folklore about Stingy Jack was quickly incorporated into Halloween, and weвve been carving pumpkinsвor turnipsвever since.