September 21, 2019

The Editor Speaks: Halloween

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My early life living in England, Halloween was hardly celebrated at all. It was too close to GuyFawkes/Bonfire night held on November 5th. Now that was some celebration.

The only memory I have of Halloween as a child was Apple Bobbing or Bobbing for Apples.

We would play the game by filling a tub or a large basin with water and putting apples in the water. Because apples are less dense than water, they floated at the surface. We would then try to catch one with our teeth. Use of arms was not allowed and were tied behind our back to prevent cheating.

I understand, because of the huge influence of American television and the enterprising companies Halloween is now a big event, although not as huge as it is in the US.

According to Wikipedia:
“The tradition of bobbing for apples dates back to the Roman invasion of Britain, when the conquering army merged their own celebrations with traditional Celtic festivals. The Romans brought with them the apple tree, a representation of the goddess of plenty, Pomona. During an annual celebration, young unmarried people try to bite into an apple floating in water or hanging from a string; the first person to bite into the apple would be the next one to be allowed to marry.

“The custom is mentioned (along with apples suspended on a string) in 18th century by Charles Vallancey in his book Collectanea de .

“Girls who placed the apple they bobbed under their pillows were said to dream of their future lover.”

Like most celebrations they have their origins way back in time and Halloween goes back even further than the bobbing for apples. Once again, though, the celts are involved.

From www.history.com

Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1.

This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth.

In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter.

To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other’s fortunes.

When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.

By the 9th century the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands, where it gradually blended with and supplanted the older Celtic rites. In 1000 A.D., the church would make November 2 All Souls’ Day, a day to honor the dead. It’s widely believed today that the church was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related church-sanctioned holiday.

All Souls Day was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels and devils. The All Saints Day celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from meaning All Saints’ Day) and the night before it, the traditional night of Samhain in the Celtic religion, began to be called All-Hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween.

SOURCE: https://www.history.com/topics/halloween/history-of-halloween

One last interesting fact. One quarter of all the candy sold annually in the U.S. is purchased for Halloween!!

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