Saturday, October 31, 2009

Today is the Halloween Day


A Jack-o'-lantern (a hollowed-out pumpkin
 with a candle inside)
Art by Jennifer Tibbits @ the courtesy

Today is the Halloween Day. This day is celebrated, mostly in the western world, on every October 31 -- the day before the feast of All Hallows' Day or officially called All Saints' Day. The word halloween is the short form of All Hallow E'en (holy evening).

The Background of the Halloween

More than two thousand years ago, the pagan Celtic tribes of Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Brittany used to observe this day as the last day of summer and the advent of winter. On this occasion, they celebrated the festival of Samhain, the Lord of the Dead. It was believed that the souls of the dead returned on this night and mixed with the living. Moreover, on this day, the Celts also took stock of their harvested grains and killed cows, goats and sheep and stocked the meat for use in coming winter months. To prevent the returning dead from causing harm by sickness and plague or by crop damage, people set bonfires and threw bones of slaughtered livestock on them. They also wore ghostly costumes and masks (witches, ghouls, skeletal figures, and the like) so that the dead souls might think that the living people were ones of their own and abstain from causing them any harm.

The Christian Aspect of the Halloween

In 835 A.D., Pope Gregory IV tried to Christianize the festival by moving the celebration of Christian martyrs (later called Saints) from May 13 to November 1. November 2 is observed as the All Souls' Day. These two feasts have been placed together to remember the dead -- who are saints as well as others who may or may not be saints.

The Modern Halloween

In the mid-1850s, about two million Irish people came to the United States as refugees and migrants. With them came the custom of the Halloween. Gradually, this custom spread all over the USA and Canada with the commercialization of this festival, that is observed by treat-or-tricking, bonfires, costume parties, ghost-story-telling, and the like. Today, Christians and non-Christians alike observe the Halloween Day as part of merry-making.

Happy Halloween to you all!

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