Sunday, October 28, 2012

Halloween? Or Happy New Year?

Hi, Pat McDermott here, getting ready for lots of chocolate and cute little pixies ringing the doorbell on Halloween. Millions of children preparing to go trick-or-treating are unaware that Halloween started in Ireland, as part of the Celtic Samhain (Sow-win) festival. Nearly 2,000 years ago, Samhain, the Celtic New Year, marked the end of summer and the start of winter. The boundary between the world of the living and the dead was at its thinnest at Samhain, and the Celts believed that on that night, the spirits of their ancestors passed back and forth through that boundary.

Celtic families honored their departed forebears by inviting them into their homes even as they dressed in costumes and masks to protect themselves from evil spirits. While the women prepared food for both the living and the dead, the men inventoried food supplies and slaughtered livestock to augment the winter diet. As part of the celebration, the people allowed their household fires to go out, and they tossed the animals’ bones on communal bonfires from which each hearth was ceremoniously relit to start the New Year.

The arrival of Christianity incorporated Samhain into the Christian calendar by renaming November 1st All Saints’ Day and November 2nd All Souls’ Day. Nice try, but several customs have survived these name changes, including the wearing of costumes and masks. The Irish who emigrated during the 19th century famine brought their Halloween customs all over the world. In America, they melded with the harvest traditions of other cultures, such as carving pumpkins into Jack-o’-lanterns.

Best wishes for a fun and safe Halloween!

Pat's Web Site and Blog

*Pictures courtesy of Photobucket

10 comments:

gail roughton branan said...

Great post Pat! I always count on you as our resident expert for all things Celtic! (And who doesn't love Halloween?)

Candilynn Fite said...

I love these precious moments when I learn something. Thanks, Pat!

Pat McDermott said...

Hey, Gail! Thanks. I always love to see the little gremlins and fairies at the front door, though I'm a tad worried about Hurricane Sandy dampening the festivities this year. Hopefully a spirit or two will slip through the thin spot and chase her away!

Pat McDermott said...

My pleasure, Candilynn. I too enjoy learning things in short, sweet nuggets, a great thing about blog posts.

Jo Marshall said...

Really fun and fascinating blog, as usual, Pat. Thanks for the info. My thoughts are with those in Sandy's path this week, but hopefully, the kids on the east coast will find a way to celebrate. I like the sweet nuggets, too, Pat. Please keep digging them up!

Pat McDermott said...

Glad you enjoyed the post, Jo. Thanks for the encouragement!

Linda Lovely said...

Thanks, Pat, for reminding us of Halloween's LONG history. I wish we still had little gremlins ringing our doorbell on Halloween, but our neighborhood is apparently too "old" and hilly to attract many trick or treaters.

Pat McDermott said...

Then you'll have to move, Linda! Just teasing. I'm sure you'll enjoy Halloween in your own way, fairies and mummies or no. We just found out our town changed Trick or Treat from Tuesday to Saturday because of the hurricane. Good thing I didn't buy candy yet. It would be all gone by Saturday. Thanks for stopping by!

S. Durham Author said...

Thanks Pat for sharing this fascinating history! I've always liked the idea of the spirits being close to us during this time of year. The good ones, that is:)

Cheers, Sara

Pat McDermott said...

Glad you enjoyed the post, Sara. I don't mind the good spirits either :-)