Samhain (pronounced ‘Sau in’) originated over two thousand years ago in the Celtic homelands of Europe.
Celebrated on the 31st of October from sunset to day rise, the festival marked not only the end of the harvest and the onset of winter but the transition between the living and the dead where both could coexist on the same plane.
During the night the dead could return to their homes and food and offerings were set aside for them. people wearing costumes depicting the dead went from home to home to collect these.
As it was the end of summer cattle were herded from their summer pastures to their winter emclosures if they were lucky or slaughtered for winter stores if they were unlucky. Great sacred fires were lit and the cattle were driven through the flames to purify them.
Pomona was the Roman Goddess of fruit trees and orchards and was honoured on November 1st. This is where the French word for apple ‘Pomme’ comes from and may be where the tradition of bobbing for apples originated.
When the Celtic heartlands were converted to Christianity in the eighth century Samhain was christianised by the church and a new feast of ‘All Hallows Eve’ created. All Hallows took place the night before All Saints day.
It was a night where the populace was supposed to quietly meditate on death and the dead, however the majority celebrated in raucous pagan merriment.
The newly dead who were between life and heaven or hell, were released from purgatory and could return to visit their own homes.
Like Samain people would go door to door asking for soul cake in return for prayers and blessings for the dead of the house. Queen Elisabeth disliked the festival so much she banned it.
Many Europeans who emigrated to the Americas brought with them their old customs. Carved pumpkins replaced turnip lanterns. It wasn’t until 1942 that trick and treating started where gangs of children would journey from home to home extorting sweets and candy from terrified householders under the threat of vandalism, wearing masks and costumes to hide their identities.Keywords: Halloween, Samhain, Celtic, All Hallows Eve, Pomona, Trick or Tweet, Night
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