Where: In many Western Christians & some non-Christians countries around the world.
When: 31st October/ 1st November (In some countries)
The world’s one of the most widely celebrated fun festivals called ‘Halloween’, also known as ‘Allhalloween’, is the yearly celebration held in many countries on 31st October on the eve of the ‘Western Christian Feast’ of ‘All Hallows Day’. The festival indicates the start of the ‘Triduum of allhallowtide’ & is celebrated between fall & winter. It is celebrated in the memories of the departed souls, including saints (hallows), martyrs & all the faithful followers.
The origins of this eerie festival supposedly rooted in the ancient Celtic festival of Gaelic Samhain’ wherein people used to light up the bonfires & roamed around the town at night donning spooky costumes to ward off the ghost spirits!
Today, ‘Halloween’ has evolved into a secular revelry participated by various fun loving communities. The festival is celebrated by indulging in many activities including ‘Trick or Treat’, ‘pumpkin carvings’, ‘bonfires’, ‘apple bobbing’ & ‘playing pranks’. In many parts of the world, devout Christians observe this day with the religious notion by attending church services & lighting candles on the crypts of the deceased.
WHY THEY CELEBRATE?
The ancient harvest festival of ‘Celtic Samhain’ is believed to be the stepping stone of the ‘Halloween’. The Celtics celebrated their new year on 1st November. The day was considered as the end of the summer, harvest & hence the opulence. The Celts used to believe that on the day before 1st November, the boundary between the mortal world & the hell become obscured due to which the evils get an opportunity to trace their way back to the earth. The Celtics considered it as an opportunity to predict their fortune through the Druids (Celtic Priest) who were considered capable of summoning the alien spirits.
The ‘Druids’ would use the bonfires to carry out the ceremonies for summoning the ghost spirits & people draped in bizarre costumes, used to gather around the bonfire to offer crops & animals as sacrifices to appease the daunting ghosts. The Roman Empire, later on, added couple of more traditions in the ancient ‘Celtic’ fete including commemoration of the dead & a ritual for honoring Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruits & trees! Today’s tradition of ‘bobbing’ for apples has supposedly come from the Roman’s ritual as the apple was the symbol of Pomona!
Pope Boniface IV added another aspect to the celebration in 609 AD as he declared this day as the Catholic feast of ‘All Martyrs Day’ for honoring all the Catholic martyrs. Pope Gregory III, later on, broadened the concept by including all saints along with the martyrs in the list of honors. In 1000 AD, the church declared November 2 as the ‘All Souls Day’ to pay tribute to the departed souls. The ‘All Saints Day’ became famous as ‘All Hallows’ or ‘All Hallowmas’, which eventually became All-Hallows Eve & later on, the Halloween!
The ‘Halloween’ gradually reached the land of Northern America through the English colonies in the late 1800s & subsequently spread its wings to become a secular & communal-centered, fun-filled holiday. Today, Halloween has become the USA’s second largest commercial holiday.
HOW THEY CELEBRATE?
The ‘trick or treat’ tradition which is more famous in ‘American Halloween celebration’ has roots in the former ‘All Souls Day’ parade in England, during which, poor people would beg for food & families would offer them the pastries in return for their assurance to pray for the family’s deceased kin. The practice took its recent attire in due course of time & children started visiting the houses in the neighborhood asking for food, money or any gift articles!
The tradition of flaunting scary attire has also come from the ancient European & Celtic culture. As it was believed in ancient time that the ghosts roamed freely on the earth on this day, people used to wear masks & would drape themselves by some eerie costumes at the time of leaving their houses in the dark in order to mislead the roaming ghosts by pretending to be one of them. On ‘Halloween Eve’, people keep the food outside their houses in order to appease the hungry ghosts passing by their houses.
On Halloween Eve, many Catholics observe a complete abstinence from meat & prefer devouring variety of delicious vegetarian food. The ‘Candy apples’ & ‘caramel apples’ are the most loved Halloween desserts. The ways of celebrating this vivacious festival vary across the nations. In some countries, ‘Halloween’ is a strictly religious festival & people prefer indulging in praying, fasting & offering church services, whereas in other countries, ‘Halloween’ has taken the form of grand party & vibrant jamboree of revelers from all different communities & religions.
Whichever way people celebrate it, the high spirit & the fun factor remain the constant. ‘Halloween’ thus, remains one of the most loved festivals celebrated almost in every corner of the world with undying spirit & amidst zestful environment!