A Short History of Halloween
Halloween is a magical time celebrated by people of all faiths around the word on the evening and night of the 31st October every year. Children enjoy it more dressing up as ghosts and skeletons carrying hollowed out pumpkin lanterns and singing ghastly songs going from door to door trick or treating. They are rewarded for their efforts with candy and sometimes a few coins.
As people celebrate the modern version, most of the meaning behind history of Halloween has been lost. However its roots are still known very well and make a great children story before they set off on their mission to scar and entertain. Halloween was originally known by the Celtic name ‘Samhain’. Some historians believe that it might be the name from which the word ‘summer’ originated.
Celtic people of Western Europe thousands of years ago believed that on the last day of summer, the barriers between the living world and the kingdom of dead would open allowing spirits and saints to pass among the living.
Evil spirits would go to every home scaring people and any unlucky person outside had to hurry before the spirits could catch them and take them back to the kingdom of the dead. To turned to the priests to protect themselves from that terrifying night. They would light great fires and offer sacrifices to calm down the evil spirits until the barriers were closed.
The evil spirits were often battled by gods and other good spirits but they needed the help of the living world to keep away the evil spirits from completely tearing down the separating barrier. Animal bones sacrifices were thrown into the fire that was called the bone fires. This is how the word ‘bonfire’ originated and became a part of the history of Halloween.
In return for the help, the gods made it possible for the priest to predict the weather and health of their king for the coming year. The priests also recited poems to the sun which they believe to be the god and that it would return the next year and warm the earth. The winter was cold and dark. The Celtic people believed that if the sun would not return, they would not have the strength to help the saints to fight evil spirits and the devil would ultimately win and the earth would perish.
Halloween has changed from being a religious celebration to an annual holiday in the 19th and 20th centuries. It is mostly for children dressed in costumes wandering from house to house and singing songs in small groups. A tradition which started in the US and now spreading to other parts of the world is the scary looking carved out pumpkin lantern known as jack o’lantern.
The story behind jack with the lantern is a classic, a man in Ireland stole from the villagers was being chased out of the village when he met a devil who came to claim Jack’s soul. Jack made a deal with the devil of exchanging the souls of the villagers for his freedom. The devil turned into a silver coin that Jack gave to the villagers as a as payment for his crimes. When the villagers were asleep, the devil returned to normal form and took the villagers. Jack cunningly put the coin in a purse that also had across, it trapped the devil helped jack to escape.
Jack died many years later and is turned away from Heaven because of his sins. However, the devil still remembered how Jack had treated it and forbids his entrance to Hell. Consequently Jack was doomed to wander forever in the dark nights. The devil gifted a sliver hot coal from the hell fires to Jack which he places in a lantern to help him in his travel.
The pumpkin lantern reminds of Jack’s deal. A big yellow or orange colored pumpkin is carved into a scary looking face and a lighted candle is placed inside, the reflecting light of the candle from inside gives it a creepy look.
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