Where was this tradition born?
The Celts believed that on this magical night all the physical laws that govern space and time were suspended, allowing the fusion of the real world and the hereafter. To avoid spirit possession, the peasants of the Celtics villages made their homes cold and undesirable, put out the fires in the fireplaces and masqueraded their bodies as horrible monsters wandering through the house to escape all the spirits of fear they met and not be recognized.
The fires were extinguished also ‘cause the villagers would eventually build a single giant Druidic fire that was lit on the night of October 31 in the middle of Ireland at Usinach. Even the Romans got used to that practice, but with the passage of time the fear of being possessed vanished and only the tradition of dressing up persisted.
With the passage of time those spirits took on a connotation clearly evil. The church said in fact that the gods and other supernatural beings of the ancient religions were diabolical. That spiritual forces with which people came into contact were true, but they were manifestations of the devil that led humans to the worship of false idols. For this reason during the celebrations for Halloween, appeared representations of ghosts, skeletons, symbols of death, the devil and other evil creatures such as witches.
In the U.S., where the party is so popular, it was actually introduced only in 1840 by Irish immigrants.
What is the meaning of the words “Halloween” and “Samhain”?
The word Halloween had AngloSaxon origin, can be traced back to the tradition of the Catholic Church and is a contraction of the phrase “All Hallows Eve” celebrated on October 31, because in the fifth century BC in Ireland that day coincided with the end of summer: on this day, called Samhain (pronounced ‘soueen’) the typical colors were orange to commemorate the harvest and thus the end of summer and the black to symbolize the impending darkness of winter.
Samhain is known as “The Day of the Dead,” because it was believed that at this time of the year the dead could return to the land of the living to celebrate with their family, tribe or clan. Samhain is considered the period of completion of old projects, and critically evaluates what was made in the year and is expected to new projects and new businesses in the new year. A sort of Celtic New Year.
Trick or Treat?
This tradition found its origins in Europe, from a practice called “souling”. On November 2, All Saints Day, early Christians were wandering from village to village begging for a little ‘”bread of the soul”, a square cake made with raisins. The Most sweets they received, the more prayers they would promise to their dead relatives.
An Irish legend tells of Jack, a blacksmith crafty, and stingy drunkard, who one day met the devil. Due to his state of intoxication, his soul was almost in the hands of the devil, but cleverly managed to transform the devil in a penny, and promised his soul in exchange for one last drink. Jack put the devil in his purse, next to a silver cross, so that he could not change back. The devil promised that he would take his soul in the next ten years and Jack set him free. Ten years later, the devil came again, and Jack asked him to pick an apple from a tree before taking his soul. In order to prevent the devil descended, the clever Jack carved a cross in the trunk. Only after a long spat the two reached a compromise: in exchange for his freedom, the devil would save eternal damnation to Jack. During his life committed many sins, when he died, rejected by Heaven he went to Hell, where he was “cordially” cast out by the demon who reminded him of the deal and was happy to let him wander as a tormented soul. Since it was cold and dark, the devil gave him a firebrand (eternal as coming from hell), which Jack placed inside of a pumpkin he had with him. Halloween is therefore the day when Jack goes in search of a haven on earth. The inhabitants of each country are required to hang a lantern outside the door to indicate the unhappy soul that their home is no place for him.
And the witches?
Witches consider this day as a religious holiday. Not only it is a day when they remember their deceased loved ones, but it is also
a night where you can practice various forms of divination, how to read the future in the mirrors and a better reading of tarot cards. Witches often have two types of celebration during this period. One for friends outside the fraternity, which can involve children and their friends. The other, practiced later, very late (close to midnight or later, even better) is the traditional circle of the Sabbath.
Not all parts of Europe practiced Christian worship. Those who practiced pagan worship, and so they had no rites that concerned the dead, believed in the existence of witches and witchcraft. One of the most important aspects of witchcraft was the Sabbath. The Sabbaths were mainly two: one on April 30 and the other on October 31. The witches gathered in the mountains, and practiced sorcery to summon demons and devils.
The church, which in no way could eradicate these cults, in the year 835 moved to the Catholic rite of All Saints from May 13 to November 1, hoping in this way to give a new meaning to the pagan cults and to lose meaning for the Sabbath. But both the pagan cult of witches and the Celtic lord of darkness were struggling to fall, so it was added an extra day, November 2, All Souls’ Day, to celebrate the souls of loved ones passed away. Thus the cult was modified, thinking that the souls of dead loved ones are disguised as demons, saints and angels, and they came around to light the bonfire (the sacred fire of the Celts).
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