Realms Wishes all Members,
Staff and Friends
A Blessed and Happy Halloween!
Halloween! Itís Halloween!
The moon is full and bright,
And we shall see what canít be seen
On any other night.
origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival
of Samhain. The Celts, who lived 2,000 years
ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United
Kingdom, and northern France, celebrated their
new year on November 1. This day marked the
end of summer and the harvest and the beginning
of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that
was often associated with human death.
believed that on the night before the new year,
the boundary between the worlds of the living
and the dead became blurred. On the night of
October 31, they celebrated Samhain, when it
was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned
to earth. In addition to causing trouble and
damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence
of the other worldly spirits made it easier
for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions
about the future. For a people entirely dependent
on the volatile natural world, these prophecies
were an important source of comfort and direction
during the long, dark winter.
commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred
bonfires, where the people gathered to burn
crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic
deities. During the celebration, the Celts wore
costumes, typically consisting of animal heads
and skins, and attempted to tell each other's
fortunes. When the celebration was over, they
re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished
earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire
to help protect them during the coming winter.
A.D. 43, Romans had conquered the majority of
Celtic territory. In the course of the four
hundred years that they ruled the Celtic lands,
two festivals of Roman origin were combined
with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain.
The first was Feralia, a day in late October
when the Romans traditionally commemorated the
passing of the dead. The second was a day to
honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and
trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple and
the incorporation of this celebration into Samhain
probably explains the tradition of "bobbing"
for apples that is practiced today on Halloween.
the 800s, the influence of Christianity had
spread into Celtic lands. In the seventh century,
Pope Boniface IV designated November 1 All Saints'
Day, a time to honor saints and martyrs. It
is widely believed today that the pope was attempting
to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with
a related, but church-sanctioned holiday. The
celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas
(from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All
Saints' Day) and the night before it, the night
of Samhain, began to be called All-hallows Eve
and, eventually, Halloween. Even later, in A.D.
1000, the church would make November 2 All Souls'
Day, a day to honor the dead. It was celebrated
similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades,
and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels,
and devils. Together, the three celebrations,
the eve of All Saints', All Saints', and All
Souls', were called Hallowmas.
Ireland, where Halloween originated, the day
is still celebrated much as it is in the United
States. In rural areas, bonfires are lit as
they were in the days of the Celts, and all
over the country, children get dressed up in
costumes and spend the evening "trick-or-treating"
in their neighborhoods. After trick-or-treating,
most people attend parties with neighbors and
friends. At the parties, many games are played,
including "snap-apple," a game in which an apple
on a string is tied to a doorframe or tree and
players attempt to bite the hanging apple. In
addition to bobbing for apples, parents often
arrange treasure hunts, with candy or pastries
as the "treasure." The Irish also play a card
game where cards are laid face down on a table
with candy or coins underneath them. When a
child chooses a card, he receives whatever prize
is found below it.
traditional food eaten on Halloween is barnbrack,
a kind of fruitcake that can be bought in stores
or baked at home. A muslin-wrapped treat is
baked inside the cake that, it is said, can
foretell the eater's future. If a ring is found,
it means that the person will soon be wed; a
piece of straw means that a prosperous year
is on its way. Children are also known to play
tricks on their neighbors, such as "knock-a-dolly,"
a prank in which children knock on the doors
of their neighbors, but run away before the
door is opened.
Jack-o-lantern is the festival light for Halloween
and is the ancient symbol of a damned soul.
Originally the Irish would carve out turnips
or beets as lanterns as representations of the
souls of the dead or goblins freed from the
dead. When the Irish emigrated to America they
could not find many turnips to carve into Jack
O'Lanterns but they did find an abundance of
pumpkins. Pumpkins seemed to be a suitable substitute
for the turnips and pumpkins have been an essential
part of Halloween celebrations ever since. Pumpkins
were cut with faces representing demons and
was originally intended to frighten away evil
spirits. It was said that if demon or such were
to encounter something as fiendish looking as
themselves that they'd run away in terror,thus
sparing the houses dwellers from the ravages
of dark entities. They would have been carried
around the village boundaries or left outside
the home to burn through the night.
owls and other nocturnal animals, also popular
symbols of Halloween, were originally feared
because people believed that these creatures
could communicate with the spirits of the dead.
Black cats has religious origins as well. During
the Middle Ages it was believed that witches
could turn themselves into black cats. Thus
when such a cat was seen, it was considered
to be a witch in disguise.
from Irish and English traditions, Americans
began to dress up in costumes and go house to
house asking for food or money, a practice that
eventually became today's "trick-or-treat" tradition.
The American tradition of "trick-or-treating"
probably dates back to the early All Souls'
Day parades in England. During the festivities,
poor citizens would beg for food and families
would give them pastries called "soul cakes",
made out of square pieces of bread with currants,
in return for their promise to pray for the
family's dead relatives. 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 guarantee a soul's passage to
heaven.The distribution of soul cakes was encouraged
by the church as a way to replace the ancient
practice of leaving food and wine for roaming
spirits. The practice, which was referred to
as "going a-souling" was eventually taken up
by children who would visit the houses in their
neighborhood and be given ale, food, and money.
tradition of dressing in costume for Halloween
has both European and Celtic roots. Hundreds
of years ago, winter was an uncertain and frightening
time. Food supplies often ran low and, for the
many people afraid of the dark, the short days
of winter were full of constant worry. On Halloween,
when it was believed that ghosts came back to
the earthly world, people thought that they
would encounter ghosts if they left their homes.
To avoid being recognized by these ghosts, people
would wear masks when they left their homes
after dark so that the ghosts would mistake
them for fellow spirits. On Halloween, to keep
ghosts away from their houses, people would
place bowls of food outside their homes to appease
the ghosts and prevent them from attempting
the late 1800s, there was a move in America
to mold Halloween into a holiday more about
community and neighborly get-togethers, than
about ghosts, pranks, and witchcraft which helped
to popularize the celebration of Halloween nationally.
Because of the rigid Protestant belief systems
that characterized early New England, celebration
of Halloween in colonial times was extremely
limited there. It was much more common in Maryland
and the southern colonies. As the beliefs and
customs of different European ethnic groups,
as well as the American Indians, meshed, a distinctly
American version of Halloween began to emerge.
The first celebrations included "play parties,"
public events held to celebrate the harvest,
where neighbors would share stories of the dead,
tell each other's fortunes, dance, and sing.
Colonial Halloween festivities also featured
the telling of ghost stories and mischief-making
of all kinds. Parties focused on games, foods
of the season, and festive costumes. Parents
were encouraged by newspapers and community
leaders to take anything "frightening" or "grotesque"
out of Halloween celebrations. Because of their
efforts, Halloween lost most of its superstitious
and religious overtones by the beginning of
the twentieth century. By the middle of the
nineteenth century, annual autumn festivities
were common, but Halloween was not yet celebrated
everywhere in the country.
the 1920s and 1930s, Halloween had become a
secular, but community-centered holiday, with
parades and town-wide parties as the featured
entertainment. Despite the best efforts of many
schools and communities, vandalism began to
plague Halloween celebrations in many communities
during this time. By the 1950s, town leaders
had successfully limited vandalism and Halloween
had evolved into a holiday directed mainly at
the young. Due to the high numbers of young
children during the fifties baby boom, parties
moved from town civic centers into the classroom
or home, where they could be more easily accommodated.
Between 1920 and 1950, the centuries-old practice
of trick-or-treating was also revived. Trick-or-treating
was a relatively inexpensive way for an entire
community to share the Halloween celebration.
In theory, families could also prevent tricks
being played on them by providing the neighborhood
children with small treats. A new American tradition
was born, and it has continued to grow.
Halloween is becoming once again and adult holiday
or masquerade, like mardi Gras. Men and women
in every disguise imaginable are taking to the
streets of big American cities and parading
past grinningly carved, candlelit jack o'lanterns,
re-enacting customs with a lengthy pedigree.
Their masked antics challenge, mock, tease,
and appease the dread forces of the night, of
the soul, and of the otherworld that becomes
our world on this night of reversible possibilities,
inverted roles, and transcendency. In so doing,
they are reaffirming death and its place as
a part of life in an exhilarating celebration
of a holy and magic evening.
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