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MAIN Arrow to Home Life Home Life Arrow to Holidays Holidays Arrow to Halloween Halloween

Ancient Roots, Modern Celebrations
Halloween Rituals Date Back Thousands Of Years

Halloween has been celebrated in one form or another since the earliest days of recorded history...

Where did bobbing for apples come from?"Pomona was the Goddess of fruit whose symbol was the apple. That's where bobbing for apples entered the celebrations...."

You would guess that ghosts and goblins mixed with the Hulk and Spiderman is a very modern way to celebrate Halloween. Guess again. This holiday has roots buried deep in the shadows of ancient cultures.

Dressing in costumes, bobbing for apples and other rituals associated with Halloween can be traced back to the Greeks, Druids and Romans. Even the earliest residents of our planet noticed the changes in season that mark the end of October.

Today we know that the Earth spinning on its axis around the sun causes the days to get shorter and longer and the seasons to change. Before science could provide these facts, attempting to explain why it became colder or hotter, why the days were shorter or longer or any of the other seasonal differences was the job of the priests and holy men


jack-o-lantern
The Celts hollowed out turnips to
create the first jack-o-lanterns
which were later substituted
for pumpkins in America.

 

Myths were formed to provide answers and these formed the basis of many religious beliefs and rituals. Over the centuries, various cultures adopted the rituals to fit their holidays, says Fred Suppe, history professor at Ball State University.

The Celts were the earliest to leave records of their celebrations. These tribes who lived in what is now known as Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France celebrated a holiday known as Samhain. It was a celebration that was sort of a New Year's Eve party. The year for them began on November 1, at the end of the harvest and the beginning of the cold dark season.

The Druids, the Celtic priests, claimed to be able to communicate with the souls of the dead and the spirits of the Earth on Samhain. To protect themselves from the pranks of the spirits, the Celts built bonfires, carried lamps and disguised themselves in costumes to celebrate and protect themselves from any evil. The jack-o'-lanterns that are a symbol of our holiday started with these bonfires.

Eventually the Celts were conquered by the Romans who added a few embellishments to the celebration. Feralia, the Roman feast of the dead and the feast of Pomona were mixed with the Celtic festivities. Pomona was the Goddess of fruit whose symbol was the apple. That's where bobbing for apples entered the celebrations.

As the Christian religion began to dominate the region, the Feasts of All Souls and All Saint's Day were instituted to allow the pagan festivals to be incorporated into the Church's domain. All Soul's Day was substituted for the pagan festivals and All Saint's Day was a more sedate, religious feast. It was also called All Hallows or All Holies. The evening before All Hallows soon became known as All Hallow's Eve. It didn't take long for the words to blur into Halloween.

As European emigrants made their way to the Americas, they brought their customs along. One of these was Halloween, the same festival that we celebrate on October 31st. When you get dressed in your costume this Halloween, remember that you are taking part in a piece of history still living today!


Also see -> A History of the Horror Film


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