Friday, October 29, 2010

Happy Halloween!

The Story of Halloween
Halloween is one of the oldest holidays with origins going back thousands of years. The holiday as we know it has had many influences from many cultures over the centuries. From the Roman's Pomona Day, to the Celtic festival of Samhain, to the Christian holidays of All Saints and All Souls Days.
Hundreds of years ago in what is now Great Britain and Northern France, lived the Celts. The Celts worshipped nature and had many Gods, with the Sun God as their favorite. It was "he" who commanded their work and their rest times, and who made the earth beautiful and the crops grow.
The Celts celebrated their New Year on November 1st. It was celebrated every year with a festival and marked the end of the "season of the sun" and the beginning of "the season of darkness and cold."
On October 31st after the crops were all harvested and stored for the long winter the cooking fires in the homes would be extinguished. The Druids, the Celtic priests, would meet in the hilltop in the dark oak forest (oak trees were considered sacred). The Druids would light new fires and offer sacrifices of crops and animals. As they danced around the the fires, the season of the sun passed and the season of darkness would begin.
During the first century the Romans invaded Britain. They brought with them many of their festivals and customs. One of these was the festival know as Pomona Day, named for their Goddess of fruits and gardens. It was also celebrated around the 1st of November. After hundreds of years of Roman rule the customs of the Celtic's Samhain festival and the Roman Pomona Day mixed becoming 1 major fall holiday.
The next influence came with the spread of the new Christian religion throughout Europe and Britain. In the year 835 AD the Roman Catholic Church would make November 1st a church holiday to honor all the saints. This day was called All Saint's Day, or Hallowmas, or All Hallows. Years later the Church would make November 2nd a holy day. It was called All Souls Day and was to honor the dead. It was celebrated with big bonfires, parades, and people dressing up as saints, angels and devils.
But the spread of Christianity did not make people forget their early customs. On the eve of All Hallows, Oct. 31, people continued to celebrate the festivals of Samhain and Pomona Day. Over the years the customs from all these holidays mixed. October 31st became known as All Hallow Even, eventually All Hallow's Eve, Hallowe'en, and then - Halloween.
The Halloween we celebrate today includes all of these influences, Pomona Day's apples, nuts, and harvest, the Festival of Samhain's black cats, magic, evil spirits and death, and the ghosts, skeletons and skulls from All Saint's Day and All Soul's Day.

Did You Know?
Facts, Figures & Folklore About Halloween

The holiday of Halloween dates back to the Dark Ages. Once truly spooky traditions have morphed over the years into much more light-hearted (but still mischevious) celebrations. Here is a fun look at some of the facts and figures that describe how Americans will be enjoying All Hallows Eve
this October 31st.

The Celtic people, who lived 2,000 years ago in the United Kingdom and northern France, believed that during Samhain, the veil between this world and the spirit world was at its thinnest. Samhain was a two festival, starting on November 1st.

When the Church began sending out missionaries to the Celtic region, it adopted many traditional rituals and sanctioned them as Catholic activities. In the 7th century, for example, the Church's celebration of All Saints Day was moved to coincide with Samhain. A special mass called Allhallowmas was recited during All Saints Day, to honor any saints who did not already have a day of their own. The night before -- October 31st -- quickly became to be known as All Hallows Eve.

Did you know that the origins of "Trick'O'Treating" can be traced back to early celebrations of All Souls' Day in Britain?
The poor would go from door-to-door, begging for so-called "soul cakes". Over time, the custom changed and children became the beggars, receiving apples, sweet buns and money. The tradition migrated over the Atlantic Ocean and quickly became entrenched in American celebrations of Halloween.

Did you know that more than 36 million children are expected to go trick-or-treating this Halloween?
That's how many 5-13 year olds there are in the United States. Of course, age is no limit for Halloween fun, so those numbers might be a bit of an understatement.

Did you know that there are 106 million households in the United States?
That's a lot of trick-or-treating ground to cover in just one night.

Did you know that legends claim the "jack-o-lantern" got its name from a mean old man named Jack?
Too mean to get into heaven, when Jack went to hell he was meet by the Devil who gave him a piece of burning coal and sent him away. Jack placed the burning coal in a turnip to use as a lantern to light his way. The legends claim that Jack is still walking with the "jack-o-lantern" looking for a place to stay.

Did you know that another Jack-O-Lantern legend tells the story of the early Celts who would carry a lantern when they walked on the eve of October 31st?
These lanterns were carved out of big turnips and the lights were believed to keep the evil spirits away. Children would carve faces in the turnips and these turnip lanterns were called "jack-o-lanterns.

Did you know that the United States produces more than 998 million pounds of pumpkins?
That's a lot of Jack-o-Lanterns to make! The largest producer is Illinois, which grows an average of 457 million pounds of pumpkin. All these pumpkins are valued at more than $100 million.

Did You Know that for some, Halloween conjures up images of sweet children dressed as kitty cats, innocently Trick-or-Treating as they tote a plastic pumpkin full of sugary treats?

However for others, Halloween is a dark and mysterious evening, filled with unspeakable horrors: Witches cauldrons, one-eyed monsters, and ghoulish ghosts.

Did You Know that the days of apples as favorite Halloween treats are long gone? Today it's all about the candy. And just what are the favorite Halloween candies among trick-or-treaters?
The most searched-for Halloween candy included Tootsie Rolls, Hershey's Milk Chocolate, Nestle Crunch, Candy Corn, Snickers Bar & Milky Way.

Did you know that the average American consumes 25 pounds of candy each year?
Now how much of those 25 pounds do you think gets eaten on Halloween?

Did you know that October 30th is Candy Corn Day?
Candy corn is one of the most popular Halloween treats.

Did you know that more than 35 million pounds of candy corn will be manufactured this year?
That's equal to some 9 billion pieces of corn, enough to circle the moon 21 times if laid out end-to-end.

Did you know that one serving of candy corn contains 140 calories and no grams of fat?

Did you know that the tradition of dressing up in costumes on Halloween dates back to Celtic times?

On Samhain, Celtic people would dress up in animal costumes to mark the end of summer and coming of winter. This custom was later adopted by Christians who celebrated All Souls' Day by dressing up as saints, angels and fairies. Today, of course, the most popular costume choices for Halloween are comic book heroes and Disney princesses!

Did you know that there are more than 2,500 costume rental shops across the country?

Did you know that October is Black Cat Month?
These sweet felines have been long maligned. In fact, many humane societies are so worried about mistreatmet of the black cat on Halloween that they don't allow anyone any black cat adoptions during the entire month of October.

Did you know that modern day Wiccans still celebrate Samhain with elaborate rituals marking the end of summer and coming of the winter?
While there are many ways to celebrate Samhain, most rituals are focused on honoring one's deceased ancestors or commemorating the cycle of death and rebirth.

You can find this and other interesting trivia on the web and your local library.

Heads up: "Adrian's Angel" will be available in print in just a few weeks!

Have a safe Halloween!
Until next time, Angie


Linda Kage said...

Thanks for all the interesting facts. I love learning new tidbits like that.

Happy Halloween.

Jude Johnson said...

Great blog! Thanks for all the information.