Halloween, the Celts and Jack O.
Halloween occurs every year on October, 31st. Already during the day but mainly at night you can see scary creatures walking through the streets. Quite often houses and gardens are being decorated and lit up in a spooky way.
Did you know Halloween doesn't have it's origin in America as we might all think? It's related to an old Celtic tradition. The Celts lived in Ireland, Scotland and several areas in Europe a couple of hundred years ago. They used to celebrate something like a "feast of the dead" called "Samhain", which means "the end of summer". Originally, it was being celebrated on the eleventh night of full moon of the year. According to the Celtic calendar, this was the start of winter. During that night the Celts said goodbye to the summer. Since the Celts only differentiated between 2 seasons, summer and winter, this was as well the end of the year.
Back then they believed that summer is the time of the living and winter the time of the dead. In the night of Samhain these to worlds met. Families were offering their dead ancestors plenty of food, which they pretended to enjoy eating together. By the way, Mexico still celebrates the "Day of the death" in a very similar way on November, 1st. Families are carrying schnapps and tasty food to the cemetery, making themselves comfortable on the graves of their ancestors and having a big party together.
The old Celtic people had a completely different time measurement. The Gregorian Calendar only got implemented a lot later and the "feast of the dead" put on a specific date. From now on the descendants of the Celts were celebrating the feast in the night of October, 31st to November, 1st. Some religious movements are still formed by these old, pre-Christian cultures and keep celebrating Samhain up until today.
The rite of the Celtic People changed throughout the centuries. People got more and more scared of death so it became a ritual to dress up in a creepy way. The people believed they could play death a trick. Death was supposed think, that the costumed people had already died and so didn't need to Get them. Furthermore people should put little gifts in front of their houses to soothe the spirits.
Now and again one hears about barbarous rituals of the druids which were part of the priests class of the Celts. Apparently in the night of Samhain they asked families to sacrifice children to conciliate the spirits, otherwise bad harm is about to come to the whole family.
However there is no historical proof this did actually happen. Some people assume the church used these horror stories to decry pre-Christian pagans.
In the 19th century a lot of Irish (the descendants of the Celts) moved to the United States and took their traditions with them. In the United Stated and Canada the "Halloween"-custom changed again during time. Nowadays, the creepy feast is connected to a big wheeling and dealing.
Do you know where the name "Halloween" actually comes from? For about 1.100 On November, 1st the Catholics have celebrated "All Hallows". The Night before, October, 31st is henceforth called "All Hallows Evening" and you probably guessed it already the short form is "Halloween".
Each year, children and adults hollow lot's and lot's of pumpkins and celebrate Halloween-Parties. Kids are dressing up, walking from door to door and shouting "Sweets or sour" hoping to get some sweets. If someone isn't willing to give out any sweets, according to the Halloween custom, the kids are allowed to play a harmless joke on that person.
Halloween as it is today, is being viewed quite critical by some people. On the one side because of the profiteering and on the other side the glorification of the ghost-feast which is being used for grim actions and rituals in the eyes of the Christian church. The protestants are criticising that Halloween is at the same day like Reformation day, which is very important to the evangelical Christians because that's when they celebrate the reformation of Martin Luther which lead to the split of Christianity and created varies confessions.
Now the only question left is; why do we hollow and light up pumpkins, turning them into scary faces? These shining pumpkins are called "Jack-O-Lanterns". Until today people in Eire keep telling the blood curdling story about Jack O., who was supposed to be a real villain in his lifetime.
The night before "All Hallows" one says, Jack O. tricked the devil, who was close on his heels. He caught the devil, and the devil promised Jack to leave him alone for the next 10 years, if he'd let him go. After 10 years, the devil once again tried to get Jack O.. Jack O. asked for one last meal, an apple to be precise, which the devil should go and get for him. Once he's baited the devil onto the tree he scratched a cross into the trunk. The devil was stuck on the tree and couldn't come back down any more. In his desperate situation he had to give Jack O. the promise to leave his soul in peace and that Jack O. wouldn't be send to hell once he died.
A couple years later Jack died and happily looked forward to go to paradise. However, heaven denied him because of his sinful life. After the deal with the devil he couldn't go to hell either, so he had to wonder through the world undead. The devil felt mercy and gave him a peace of Cole out of hells fire onto his lonely way. So the cole wouldn't stop glowing he put it into a hollow carrot.
Scary pumpkin faces to scare away ghosts
The scary pumpkin face should keep evil spirits away from the house. Henceforth, it is supposed to look as scary as possible.
The tradition was born to grave lanterns out of carrots for the dead feast. Over the years it became a custom to use pumpkins turning them into creepy, scary faces. The Halloween-tradition started to spread in North America, since they are having a lot of pumpkins over there. The pumpkin is ideal, especially the hard skinned winter pumpkin which is being gathered from the middle of September until the end of October - perfect for Halloween!
Since then, hollow pumpkins or "Jack-O-Lanterns" are a part of Halloween. In the meantime there is a special kind of pumpkin called "Jack-O'-Lantern".
Halloween only came back to Europe in the 80s, where it originally came from. Since then more and more people started to hollow pumpkins in autumn, dress up scary, cook creepy food and celebrate Halloween-parties on October, 31st.