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Halloween Customs & Origin

Poster: Erick and Sue <bduck@fred.net>

According to my copy of "Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things" p 62-64
summed up

Halloween was first celebrated in 5th century BC by the Celts.  They
extinguished the fires in their homes on the night of October 31 (the
official end of Summer) to deliberately make their homes undesirable to
spirits.  They gathered outside where a Druid had lit a huge bonfire  to
honor the sun god and frighten away any lingering spirits.

The Celts believed that the spirits of all who had died that year assembled
that night to choose the body of the person or animal they would inhabit
for the next 12 months before they could pass peacefully to the afterlife.
To frighten away the roving souls, they would dress as deamons, hogoblins,
and other horrors.  They would parade inside the cold houses and outside as
noisily and distructively as possible and finally to the bonfire outside

Romans adopted the Celtic practices, but in AD 61 they outlawed human
sacrifice (though the part on the Celtic practices makes no reference to
human sacrifice?), substituting instead, effigies.

Irish immigrants brought Halloween customs of costume and mischief to the
US in the 1840's--calling it mischeif night.  Thye also brought with them
the custome of of a sort of jack-o-lantern.  They hollowed out a turnip,
carved a face on it, and lighted it with a candle inside.  There were few
turnips to be found in the new world but numerous pumpkins.

The tern Jack-o'-lantern is of Irish origin, too.  The legend goes, a man
named Jack, notorious for his drunken and lazy habits, tricked the devil
into climbing a tree.  Quickly carving a cross on the truck, Jack trapped
Satan until he swore he would never again tempt Jack to sin.  Upon his
death, Jack found himself barred from Heaven for his sinning, and also
refused entrance int o Hell from and unforgiving Satan.  Condemned to
wander in frigid darkness until Judgement Day, he implored the devil for
embers to light his way.  Though Satan had enbers in surplus, he alloted
Jack a single coal.  Putting the ember into a turnip he had chewed hollow,
he formed Jack's Lantern.

The most widley accepted theory on the origins of trick-or -treating traces
the practice to the ninth-century European custom of 'souling'

On All Soul's Day, Christians walked from village to village begging for
square buscuits, called soul cakes.  The beggars promised to offer up
prayers for the dead relatives of the donors, the number of prayers
relative to the donor's generosity.  The quantity of prayers a dead person
amassed was significant in a practical way, for limbo was the penitential
layoever stop on the journey into heavan, and suffuciant prayer, even by an
anonymous individual, would shorten the stay.

I make no guarantees that all this is accurate, only that I have accurately
summarized up the claims of Charles Panati.  If he has it wrong...feel free
to soap up his windows and teepee his house. :)


"Education makes people easy to lead, but difficult to drive,
easy to govern, but impossible to enslave."--Henry Brogham

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