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Halloween History

Historically, Halloween is a celebration of the fall harvest

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Jack-o'-lantern Tips

© 2008 Peggy Trowbridge Filippone

Halloween History

Halloween is said to be derived from Samhain, pronouced "SOW (rhymes with cow)-in", defined by the Irish Texts Society as: "All Hallowtide, the feast of the dead in Pagan and Christian times, signalling the close of harvest and the initiation of the winter season."

The Scottish called it Hallowtide or the Feast of All Souls. Samhain is derived from a combination of "sam" and "fuin" meaning the end of summer and the beginning of a new year.

In the first century A.D., the Romans brought along a couple of their own festivals to add to Samhain. Poloma, the goddess of fruit was honored, and the Festival of Feralia was to honor the dead.

The Christians came along around the eighth century A.D., and declared November 1 as All Saints Day, to honor those saints who had no designated day of their own. The mass held on All Saints Day was called Allhallowmas or the Mass of All Hallows, with hallows meaning saints. Thus, the night before the mass was called All Hallows Eve, which eventually was shortened to Halloween.

Many countries and cultures celebrate some form of Halloween. In Sicily, the Festival of the Dead is a big holiday celebrated on November 2 to keep the memory of departed loved ones alive. According to tradition, the deceased family members would return to leave sweets, cakes and trinkets for the children.

It is El Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) in Mexico, which begins on October 31, and is probably the biggest holiday in Mexico.

Historians debate which culture began the custom of trick-or-treating on Halloween. The Celts offered treats to evil spirits to avoid tricks. The Druids begged for favors in return for protection of the soul, and the Irish begged for "soul cakes." It was the English who began the tradition of dressing up in costumes and masks as they went begging for treats.

Overall, the current practice of trick-or-treating on Halloween is pretty much an American custom.

More about Halloween:

Halloween Trick-or-Treating Safety Tips
How to Carve a Pumpkin
Toasted Pumpkin Seeds Recipes
How to Make Chocolate Mice
Halloween History
Halloween Recipes
Jack'o'Lantern Pumpkin Photo © 2008 Peggy Trowbridge Filippone, licensed to About.com, Inc.

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