Tuesday, October 29, 2013

What is Halloween?

What is Halloween?
Halloween is a holiday combining many different traditional harvest festival celebrations with customs more specific to the occasion such as costume wearing, trick-or-treating, pranks, and decorations based on imagery of death and the supernatural (David Emery, About.com Guide). It is celebrated on October 31.

Halloween is watching the Great Pumpkin Patch!
It has been primarily a children's holiday, however, in more recent years Halloween activities such as mask wearing, costume parties, themed decorations, and even trick-or-treating have grown quite popular with adults as well, making Halloween an all-ages celebration.

 What does the name 'Halloween' mean?
The name Halloween (originally spelled Hallowe'en) is a contraction of All Hallows Even, meaning the day before All Hallows Day (better known as All Saints Day), a Catholic holiday commemorating Christian saints and martyrs observed since the early Middle Ages on November 1.

How and when did Halloween originate?
Apparently, the origins of Halloween can be traced back to ancient Ireland and Scotland around the time of Christ. On Oct. 31st, the Celts celebrated the end of summer. This was important because it was when animal herders would move their animals into barns and pens and prepare to ride out the winter. This was also the time of the crop harvests. This annual change of season and lifestyle was marked by a festival called Samhain -- pronounced 'sow-ane' and means 'end of summer.' Sow rhymes with cow.

Around the 5th century, as the Catholic Church developed and moved into the area, instead of adding a new day to celebrate, it took over the Samhain celebration. Nov. 1st became "All Hallows Eve" where all the saints of the Catholic church were honored. A later custom developed where people would go door-to-door on Nov. 2, requesting small cakes in exchange for the promise of saying prayers for some of the dead relatives of each house. This arose out of the religious belief that the dead were in a state of limbo before they went to heaven or hell and that the prayers of the living could influence the outcome.

Pumpkin History
References to pumpkins date back many centuries. The name pumpkin originated from the Greek word for "large melon" which is "pepon." "Pepon" was nasalized by the French into "pompon." The English changed "pompon" to "Pumpion. American colonists changed "pumpion" into "pumpkin." The "pumpkin" is referred to in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater and Cinderella.

Pumpkin crafts.
The Jack-O-Lantern (or pumpkin)  apparently comes from Irish folklore about a man named Jack who tricked the devil into climbing a tree. Once the devil was in the tree, Jack carved a cross on the trunk, preventing the devil from coming down. The devil then made a deal with Jack not to allow Jack into hell after Jack died if only Jack would remove the cross from the tree. After Jack died, he couldn't go to hell, and he couldn't go to heaven. He was forced to wander around the earth with a single candle to light his way. The candle was placed in a turnip to keep it burning longer. When the Irish came to America in the 1800's, they adopted the pumpkin instead of the turnip. Along with these traditions, they brought the idea that the black cat was considered by some to be reincarnated spirits who had prophetic abilities.

American Family Traditions
Celebrating our daughter's sweet birthday!
Each family adopts their own family tradition. As for my family we look at this time of year as Harvest Time! We enjoy the harvest of the end of summer. Now we enjoy the fall of apples and pumpkins! We warm up our home with the sweet smells of applesauce, apple and pumpkin pies, candies, breads and hot spiced apple cider! We enjoy taking the pumpkins and gourds to make crafts.  In addition, we give tribute to the saints that sacrificed their lives so we can have a better life today!