Halloween began as “Samhain” a festival celebrating the end of the Celtic calendar year on October 31st throughout Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man. All Hallow’s Eve emerged from Hallowmas, a three day Catholic holiday honoring the saints that began on October 31st. Many believe that when it was created in the 11th century the intent was to convert pagans, offering an alternative holiday for the one they traditionally observed. The Celts believed Samhain marked a time in the calendar year when the barriers between the supernatural word and our world were permeable, allowing spirits or fairies to cross over. The practice of wearing costumes and masks was intended to deceive and repel the spirits. The name evolved over time, All Hallow’s Eve became All Hallow’s Even and by sometime in the 1700s a contraction became popular giving us “Hallowe’en”.
The Jack-O-Lantern finds it’s “roots” in Ireland where the pumpkin was not nearly as plentiful as the turnip, so fashioning the fabled Jack-O-Lantern or “Jack of the Lantern” from turnips was the natural choice. This talismanic vegetable phenomenon found its origin in the legend of a crooked blacksmith by the name of Jack who trapped the Devil and made him promise not to take his soul if he released him. Satan got the last laugh though, because Jack had lead a sinful life so he was not permitted into Heaven and Satan had promised not to take his soul so he couldn’t go to hell. He was left to wander the earth in darkness for all time, when he questioned Satan as to how he would see where to go, Satan mockingly gave him an ember from the flames of Hades to light his way. Jack carved a scary faced lantern out of a turnip and placed the ember inside it, to light his way for eternity. These lanterns have been believed to ward off evil spirits including the dammed soul of Jack of the Lantern.
Though images abound of full moons on Hallowe’en they are actually quite rare. The next full moon on Halloween won’t occur until 2020 while the last one occurred back in 2001, and before that it was in 1955. Speaking of spooky icons for Halloween, who could ever forget about bats? Bats hold a special place in their association to Hallowe’en, the ancient Samhain ritual of building a bonfire to drive away insects at the New Year’s Festival attracted bats who enjoyed their own feast in the insect rich area on the periphery.
And last but certainly not least, Trick-or-Treating! This custom was brought to America by Irish families fleeing the potato famine in the 1800s and became popular during the early 20th century, but died out during WWII when sugar was rationed. After the rationing ended in 1947, children’s magazine “Jack and Jill,” radio program “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet,” and the “Peanuts” comic strip all helped to re-popularize the tradition of dressing up in costumes and asking for candy from door-to-door. By 1952, Trick-or-Treating was hugely popular again.
Please remember to be safe this Halloween while you are celebrating our nation’s second most commercialized holiday.
Oh, and don’t for get to set your clocks back before you go to bed on November 1st!
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When you think of Northern Virginia Real Estate experts, think of Spike & Julie Williams and Williams Realty.
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