Thursday, 9 October 2014

History Of Samhain

Halloween for me is the most incredible, exciting, mysterious day of the year and always has been since I was a little girl. When most people think of Halloween they think of horror movies, and ghosts and spiders and all things spooky but for me, that's completely opposite when I think of Halloween I think of fun, and laughter and Irish history. History???.. yeah I know I don't seem like the type of girl that's interested in History and you'd be right I'm not interested in history until it comes to the history of Halloween.
 I remember the day as clear as glass. I was in fifth class in primary school and each week we had a page on a certain topic and we would do a small project on it during class, one October we got one on Halloween and I still remember the sheet to this day (I was 10, and I'm now 19) but there was something about the history of Halloween that made me fascinated, I don't know I must of been a witch in my past life or something, but to this day there's nothing I love more than telling people the history of Halloween, and now that's what I intend to do..
Cue spooky Halloween music... (Okay it's not spooky, it's the theme song for 'Twitches' but it's so good!!


The tradition of Halloween comes from Ireland in early BC, however back then it wasn't called ‘Halloween’ it was a day known as ‘Samhain’ which is the Celtic word for ‘Summer's end’. Samhain was a festival celebrating the end of summer, herds returning from pastures and land leases were renewed. At this time, many people believed that Halloween was the one day of the year where spirits could rise from their graves and walk amongst the living. To make sure that their upcoming year would be successful people lit great big bonfires to scare away evil spirits. They also dressed up and wore masks to confuse and rebel against the evil spirits, this is where the dressing up on Halloween stems from.

During the 8th century, a man called ‘Pope Gregory 3rd’ tried to distract people from this pagan tradition and brought in ‘All Hallows Day’ a day to Honor all saints known and unknown on November 1st. The Europeans accepted the new holiday but weren't easy to forget about their old traditions. From there Samhain became known as ‘All Hallows Eve’ and from there it was a short walk to the name we all know today ‘Halloween.

Irish people brought Halloween to the America when they fled the potato famine in the 1800’s. Halloween became a night of mischief with pranksters unhinging gates and overturning outhouses. The elderly people who were fed up with these jokers began holding Halloween parties to keep them entertained. On Halloween night the poor starving people in the town would go from door to door begging for small cakes to eat called ‘soul cakes’ similar to our Bream Brack’. In return for these cakes the poor people promised to pray for their dead relatives and this is where ‘trick or treating’ stems from.

The great big bonfires shrank to pumpkins carved into ‘Jack O’Lanterns’. However, pumpkins weren’t always used to make Jack O’Lanterns. Irish children used to use turnips until they arrived in America and discovered that pumpkins made much nicer lanterns and were much easier to carve.
Why would anyone do such a strange thing in the first place anyway??
Well, Irish legend tells us about a mean and stingy man named ‘Jack’. Jack was so mean in fact, that when he died the devil turned him away into the night, with only a hollowed out turnip and a candle in it for light.

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