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Sunday, October 31, 2010

What’s Halloween? (The Story Behind the Celebration)

Halloween has become a traditional occasion in many countries around the world. Many people just imitate the way other people celebrate it without knowing about how it has come.

Historically, we can trace “Halloween” from an ancient Gaelic Festival “Samhain”, which Celts celebrate every October 31-November 1 of each year. Samhain literally means “summer’s end”.

During this time, harvest ends and they believe that this is the time of year that divides its lighter half and darker half. According to scholars, this marks the start of the Celtic year.

Traditionally, Gaels believe that at this time of the year, the boundary between the world of the living and the dead narrows and it becomes easy for the spirits of the dead to return because they observe that animals and plants die.

As a result of this belief, they make bonfire rituals. They would build huge bonfires and people and livestock would pass between two bonfires as a cleansing ritual and they would throw the bones of the animals they butchered into the fire.

It is customary that young men would wear costumes and masks to imitate the spirits and somehow appease them. They would carve faces on big turnips and make lamps out of them. They would display it on windows to drive evil spirits away. This custom resembles jack-o-lantern.

During the sixteenth century, guising has become common among the Gaels. Men in costumes and masks carrying turnip lamps go around from house to house to offer entertainment in exchange for food. Presently, this is the “trick-or-treat”, which children do on Halloween.

Eventually, Samhain festival has linked to the Roman Catholic Festival- All Hallows Day, which later becomes All Saints’ Day. Halloween comes the term “All Hallows”.

There are people who seem to enjoy scaring themselves and others and they make a lot of money out of it.

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