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The History of Halloween

halloween graveyard

Halloween is a pagan festival celebrated by the Celts.  November 1st was considered their New Year because it was the first day of winter. They believed that the day started in darkness and as it continued it moved into light.  In Irish November is called ‘Samhain’ and in pagan times it was a spiritual occasion, but they were nervous of evil spirits and this is why they lit bonfires and wore scary masks.  They thought this would ward off the bad spirits.

Before Samhain, all apples had to have been picked, because it was their final harvest of the summer. The Celts believed that the Puca (evil Irish fairies) spat on the unharvested apples to ensure that they would not be eaten.

The Celts thought that the bad spirits prowled the earth, so they made ugly faces out of turnips and left them outside their houses to deter the evil entities.  Some Celts lit a candle and placed it inside the turnip for extra protection.

The Halloween lantern originated from the legend of Jack O’Lantern.  He was a blacksmith who used to drink and gamble and on one occasion he made a deal with the devil to never take his soul.  When Jack died he was not allowed access to heaven because of his bad behaviour on earth, and the devil would not let him into hell because he remembered his promise to him, about not taking his soul.  So Jack was forced to roam around the hills and fields of Ireland forever.  He carried a turnip which had a carved out centre and coal inside it.  He lit the coal so he could see where he was walking through the dark countryside.

The Trick or Treat aspect of Halloween is from the druid ritual of collecting nuts, apples and eggs from people living in the area.  The collected offerings were thought to prevent bad luck from occurring in the coming year.  If people gave the trick or treaters stingy items, a trick would be played on them.  This was more of a mischievous trick rather than a malevolent one.

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