When you think of Halloween, what comes to mind?? Trick or treating?? Going to parties?? People toiletpapering someone's house?? Well, believe it or not, this is not what Halloween started out to be.
"The word "Halloween" actually has its origins in the Catholic Church. It comes from a contracted corruption of All Hallows Eve. All Hallows Day, or All Saint's Day, November 1, is a Catholic day of observance in honor of saints. But, in the 5th century BC, in Celtic Ireland, summer officially ended on October 31. The holiday was called Samhain (sow-en), the Celtic New year. One story says that, on that day, the disembodied spirits of all those who had died throughout the preceding year would come back in search of living bodies to possess for the next year. It was believed to be their only hope for the afterlife, (Panati). The Celts believed all laws of space and time were suspended during this time, allowing the spirit world to intermingle with the living, (Gahagan)."
I'm sure you can imagine that those who were living did NOT want to be possessed by a dead soul!! So, they would put out the fires in their houses and dress up in the most frightening manner possible and parade around the village very noisily to scare away the souls.
"As belief in spirit possession waned, the practice of dressing up like hobgoblins, ghosts, and witches took on a more ceremonial role".
"The custom of Halloween was brought to America in the 1840's by Irish immigrants fleeing their country's potato famine. At that time, the favorite pranks in New England included tipping over outhouses and unhinging fence gates, (Panati)".
"The custom of trick-or-treating is thought to have originated not with the Irish Celts, but with a ninth-century European custom called souling. On November 2, All Souls Day, early Christians would walk from village to village begging for "soul cakes," made out of square pieces of bread with currants. The more soul cakes the beggars would receive, the more prayers they would promise to say on behalf of the dead relatives of the donors. At the time, it was believed that the dead remained in limbo for a time after death, and that prayer, even by strangers, could expedite a soul's passage to heaven."
(All quotes used with permission by Jerry Wilson)
For more information about Halloween, check out Jerry's page at The Wilstar Holiday Page