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Celebrating Halloween? October 31 2013

Spider Diamanté Brooch - My own

Ghosts, goblins and witches!  It's that time of year for pumpkin carvings and stocking up on goodies for Halloween trick-or-treaters but little do we realise that we are actually performing an ancient Celtic ritual.

The celebration that we know today as Halloween is actually a blend of ancient and modern traditions.  Halloween is one of the world's oldest holidays dating back to Pagan times.  The name is a short form of "All Hallows’ Evening" the night before the early Christian festival of All Saints’ Day held at this time of year which was itself the Church’s adaptation of an ancient Pagan feast.

Many associate Halloween with the Celtic harvest festival of Samhain.  It was believed that on 31 October, the spirits rose and mingled with the living, that veil that separated the living and the dead grew thin.

Fires were burned and people danced and donned crazy costumes to frighten spirits away.  The fires were to bring comfort to the souls in purgatory and people prayed for them as they were permitted to move onto Heaven.

The grinning pumpkins lit by candles that you see are a variation from turnips that ancient Celts carved into skulls before placing them in their windows at night.  For the Celts, the skull represented the head which was to them the most powerful part of the body as it held the spirit.

Cats were also believed to be holy animals as they were considered to represent people who once lived and as punishment for their evil deeds, were reincarnated as a cat.

The custom of trick-or-treating and the use of "jack-o-lanterns" comes from hundreds of years ago when Irish farmers  went from house to house begging for food in the name of their ancient gods.  They would promise good luck to those who gave food and made threats to those who didn't. 

Over the years the form of the celebrations have lost their original meanings, so many people today will happily carve a pumpkin and place it in a window without knowing that they are performing a magical ritual to honour the good spirits and keep the evil ones at bay.  You would have to agree that today, Halloween is most definitely not a holy evening!