The origin of All Hallows’ Eve

Kristina Thomas, Features Writer
October 23, 2012
Filed under Top Stories, Wright Life

Halloween is a holiday where dressing up in costumes, eating candy and visiting haunted places are on your to do list. However, few people know where the holiday originated and what the symbols that represent this holiday mean.

Halloween originated with ancient Celtic festivals and traditions. Celtics celebrated the new year on Nov. 1 because that marked the end of summer and harvest and the beginning of dark, cold winter.

They believed that on the night before New Year’s the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became buried. To commemorate this event, Druids, or priests, built huge, sacred bonfires where people gathered to burn animals as sacrifices to deities. They wore costumes made of animal heads and skins.

The Roman Empire conquered Celtic territory. Romans brought Feralia, which was a festival for the passing of the dead, and the Pomona, which honored the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. Pope Gregory III made Nov. 1 All Saints’ Day. This was also called All Hallows, and the night before began to be called All Hallows’ Eve.

Halloween was brought to America by colonists, mostly Irish immigrants. The first celebrations were “play parties,” which were public events held to celebrate the harvest where neighbors would share stories of the dead and tell each other’s fortunes and ghost stories. People would go door to door asking for food or money. This became what is now trick or treating.

By the 1920’s Halloween had become a community centered holiday with parades and town-wide parties.

“My favorite part of Halloween, now that I’m older, is getting together with my friends,” sophomore Courtney McFadden said. “This year I’m throwing a gathering at my house that will include eating Halloween treats and helping each other get into our costumes. Later that night, me and my friends are planning on going out to the clubs that will be Halloween themed.”

Halloween symbols mostly represent what the Celtics believed to be the changing of the seasons. Corn husk, wheat and the colors of orange and black are a few examples.

Celtic religions taught people that cats were reincarnated souls of humans. Because they are nocturnal animals, they represent light to dark days. Skeletons are used because they are the physical representation of the body. Skeletons and ghosts symbolize Halloween because it’s the day where the line between the living and the dead are blurred.

The idea behind Jack-o-lanterns came from the legend of Stingy Jack. He was a drunk and a prankster. According to legend, he managed to upset both God and the Devil. He died and neither heaven nor hell wanted him, so he was stuck wandering the earth. He carried lit turnips with him and to keep him from knocking on your door the Irish would carve a scary jack-o-lantern to put around their houses to keep him away.

Witches also symbolize Halloween because many people feared them due to their powers. Witches were said to be in alliance with the devil, for this reason those accused were burned at the stake.

“Halloween is the one time of the year you get the chance to be whatever you want, eat as much candy as you want and just have a good time,” McFadden said.

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