Have you ever wondered what this mystery is that surrounds this time of the year? What is Halloween? Why do people dress up in ghost costumes? What is the meaning of spooky carvings on pumpkins what is the deal with “trick-or-treat”?
Let’s get right into it. Shall we?
Origin of Halloween and its association with all things spooky: Halloween (Hallows’ Evening) is a celebration observed on the 31st of October in many nations. It is also known as the All Hallows Eve or All Saints Eve. In the Christian Liturgical history, it is three-day observance dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs and the faithful departed.
The association of this celebration got a Christian influence only in 9th Century AD, prior to which Halloween was observed by the Celtic People, and it is also said that Halloween originated from ancient Celtic harvest festivals, particularly the Gaelic festival “Samhain”. Samhain marked the end of the harvest season and beginning of winter or the ‘darker half’ or the year.
Ancient observances of Halloween have also been known to include rituals wherein people lit bon fires, offered sacrifices and homage to the dead and some records also denote that they wore costumes to ward off evil spirits. However, over the years this has turned into a mere occasion to hold costume parties and galas and to exhibit spooky costumes and light hearted frolic.
Pumpkin carvings: A carved pumpkin is also known as a “jack-o-lantern”. These pumpkin lanterns are a Halloween tradition that came to the United States from Irish Immigrants. Around the 19th century in Ireland, these spooky carvings were made on pumpkins and other gourds, thereby to symbolize either spirits or supernatural beings, or they were even meant to ward off evil spirits. Historical evidences have shown these carvings on other vegetables like gourds. However, since pumpkins were the prominent crop during the Halloween or the harvest season, pumpkin carvings prevailed, and are used even today as symbols of Halloween celebrations.
Trick-or-treating: In ancient Celtic culture, during Halloween people began dressing as ghosts, demons and other malevolent creatures, performing antics in exchange for food and drink. In later Christian practices, poor people would visit the houses of wealthier families and receive pastries called soul cakes in exchange for a promise to pray for the souls of the homeowners’ dead relatives. This practice was later taken up by children, who would go from door to door asking for gifts such as food & money. Thus prevailed the tradition of children dressing up in costumes and knocking on people’s doors for candy.
In the present day scenario, Halloween happens to be the second biggest commercial holidays after Christmas and Americans are known to spend an estimated $2.6 billion on candy on Halloween.
Sources: Wikipedia & History.com