Halloween is a festival celebrated by families all over the world. Yes, that’s right; it’s not only celebrated in North America, but across countries in the world. You are probably acquainted with kids and adults dressing up in spooky costumes and going around the neighborhood trick-or treating. However, there is much more behind this festivity than dressing up and doing the candy rounds. Although these are part of the festival, there is a deep tradition behind these festivities. The holiday is observed on the 31st of October in many places. You will find carved jack-o’-lanterns, bonfires, apple bobbing and some really spooky attractions throughout this date.
But where did all this come from? Where did the tradition originate from? Halloween is also known as All Saints’ Eve, which is really a contrasting name considering what goes on; zombies in the streets, skeletons marching down the alley and spiders coming out of the wood work is not really a saints thing. Nicholas Rogers, a historian was the first person to really investigate into the origins of Halloween. In his notes, he observed that some folklorist detected that the celebrations emanated from a Roman feast of Pomona. Pomona was the Roman goddess of fruits and seeds. Traces of the festival can also be traced back to the festival of the dead called Parentalia celebrated by the ancient Romans. However, there is no solid proof that the holiday was ‘borrowed’ from the Romans. More concrete roots are traced back to the Celtic festival of Samhain.
Origins of Halloween
The original spelling of this Celtic festival is Samuin. The name is still retained by the Gaels and the Celts who occupy the British Isles. It is an Old Irish dialect that practically means ”summer’s end”. The Scottish first started celebrating the holiday in the 16th century as the All-Hallows-Even, the night before All Hallows Day. It was used to commemorate the mass-day of all saints and it began in the late 1550s. However, the symbols that are used in Halloween developed over a long period of time.
The Carved Pumpkin
The modern spooky symbols have been a work in progress and it is only lately that they were adopted. The most common symbol, the jack-o’-lantern originated from the soiling custom of carving turnips into lanterns. This was done to remember the souls that were supposed to be in purgatory, a Christian resting place for all souls. You will find the turnip used in Scotland and Ireland today during Halloween. Native Americans however use the pumpkin, not because it symbolizes anything, but due to the fact that the pumpkin is readily available than the turnip, and much larger. The first record of pumpkin carving was recorded in 1837. This was originally associated with the harvesting season and it only became associated with Halloween in the mid 19th century.
However, the modern twist in the imagery of Halloween can be traced back to modern influences. Goth works and horror films have had a great influence in the modern day celebrations of Halloween. Of particular interest is the original movie of Frankenstein and Dracula. There are millions of kids and adults who dress up as either the most famous vampire of all times, Count Dracula or the legendary man-made monster Frankenstein. On top of this, the Mummy movie has also had a significant effect on the holiday with many kids wrapping themselves in bandages. Most of the imagery used during the holiday is associated with death, evil and the occult and even mythical monsters. The most favored colors make up the whole Halloween theme are black and orange, probably to bring out that gloomy image and match the carved pumpkin.
Kids have also adopted the tradition of trick-or-treating. In their costumes, they go from house to house gathering up treats in the form of candy and even money. This is accompanied by the question “trick or treat”. These two words have a very distinct meaning on Halloween. The word ”trick” means a threat to perform some form of mischief if no treat is given. This particular event can be traced back to the middle Ages where poor folks would go begging from door to door on the All Souls’ Day in return to praying for the souls of the dead.
Now you know where most of the things you see during Halloween came from.