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HALLOWEEN WHATS IT MEAN..?
This is also the time of year when many children will dress up in "Halloween Masks", costumes and the sounds of "Trick or Treat" will be heard on many a front porch and doorway. As a child I too loved the idea of being a ghost or a pirate for the night and filling my bag full of free candy. It was only in later years that I began wondering where all the ghost and goblin hoopla came from. I was pretty amazed to discover that this holiday's roots go back thousands of years to a time of ancient festivals for the dead and dearly departed. It only made sense then that "All Soul's Day" and "All Saints Day" are an intregral part of the holiday we now know as Halloween or "All Hallows Eve..." The evolution of these holidays for the dead are the focus of this web site holyday presentation.

ORIGIN OF HALLOWEEN
ORIGIN OF ALL HALLOWS EVE

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The origin of "All Hallows Eve" or "Halloween" had it's inceptions in an ancient, pre-Christian Celtic festival of the dead. The festival observed at this time of year was called "Samhain" (pronounced Sah-ween). It was the biggest and most significant holiday of the Celtic year. The Celts believed that at the time of Samhain, more so than any other time of the year, the ghosts of the dead were able to mingle with the living, because at Samhain the souls of those who had died during the year traveled into the otherworld. People gathered to sacrifice animals, fruits, and vegetables during this occasion. They also lit bonfires in honor of the dead, to aid them on their journey, and to keep them away from the living. On that day all manner of beings were considered to be in attendance. Ghosts, fairies, and demons. All part of the dark and dreaded side of the holiday we now know and call Halloween.

HISTORY OF HALLOWEEN
HISTORY OF HALLOWEEN

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As outlined in the "Origins of Halloween" above, Celtic festival of the dead called "Samhain" became the Halloween we are familiar with today. Historically Christian missionaries such as; "St Patrick" and "St Columcille" attempted to change the religious practices of the Celtic people during the early part of the century of the first millennium A.D. They were successful in bringing Christianity to the Celtic people through their priestly caste called the "Druids" who were priests, poets, scientists and scholars all wrapped into one. As religious leaders, ritual specialists, and bearers of learning, the Druids were not unlike the very missionaries and monks who were introducing Christianity to their people. In 601 A.D. "Pope Gregory the First" issued a now famous edict to his missionaries concerning the native beliefs and customs of the Celtic peoples being converted. Rather than try to obliterate the native people's customs and beliefs, the Pope instructed his missionaries to incorporate them. If a group of people worshipped a tree, rather than cut it down, he advised them to "consecrate it to Christ" and allow it's continued worship. In terms of spreading Christianity, this was a brilliant concept and it became a basic approach used in all Christian and Catholic missionary work.

HALLOWEEN MASKS HISTORY CUSTOMS OF HALLOWEEN
HISTORY CUSTOMS OF HALLOWEEN

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The Christian feast of "All Saints Day" was assigned to November 1st. The day honored every Christian Saint, especially those that did not otherwise have a special day devoted to them. This feast day was meant to substitute for Samhain, and to draw the devotion of the Celtic people. All Saints Day, otherwise known as "All Hallows Day" ( hallowed meaning sanctified or holy ), was a time of the most intense activity, both human and supernatural. People continued to celebrate All Hallows Eve or Halloween as a time of the wandering dead and many supernatural creatures became associated with All Hallows Eve. In Ireland fairies were numbered among the legendary creatures who roamed the countryside on Halloween. On this day, the disembodied spirits of all those who had died throughout the preceding year would come back in search of living bodies to possess for the next year. It was believed by the Celts to be their only hope for the afterlife. Of course, the still-living did not want to be possessed, so on the night of October 31st, villagers would extinguish the fires in their homes, to make them cold and undesirable. They would then dress up in all manner of ghoulish costumes and noisily parade around the neighborhood, being as destructive as possible in order to frighten away spirits looking for bodies to possess.

In the first century AD, the practice of sacrificing humans was abandoned in favor of burning effigies. The thrust of the practices also changed over time to become more ritualized. As belief in spirit possession waned, the practice of dressing up like hobgoblins, ghosts, and witches took on a more ceremonial role. People began dressing like these dreadful creatures, performing antics in exchange for food and drink. To this day, "Halloween masks" of witches, ghosts, and skeleton figures of the dead are among the favorite disguises purchased during Halloween.

The custom of Halloween was brought to America in the 1840's by Irish immigrants fleeing their country's potato famine. At that time, the favorite pranks in New England included tipping over outhouses and unhinging fence gates. The custom of "trick or treating" is thought to have originated not with the Irish Celts, but with a ninth-century European custom called "Souling". On November 2, "All Souls Day", early Christians would walk from village to village begging for "soul cakes," made out of square pieces of bread with currants. The more soul cakes the beggars would receive, the more prayers they would promise to say on behalf of the dead relatives of the donors. At the time, it was believed that the dead remained in limbo for a time after death, and that prayer, even by strangers, could expedite a soul's passage to Heaven.

HALLOWEEN FACTS HISTORY & CUSTOMS
FACTS ABOUT HALLOWEEN

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Halloween retains some features that harken back to the original harvest holiday of Samhain, such as the customs of bobbing for apples and carving pumpkins, as well as the fruits, nuts, and spices cider associated with the day. The "Jack-o-lantern" custom also comes from Irish folklore. As the tale is told, a man named Jack, who was notorious as a drunkard and trickster, tricked Satan into climbing a tree. Jack then carved an image of a cross in the tree's trunk, trapping the devil in the tree. Jack made a deal with the devil that, if he would never tempt him again, he would promise to let him down out of the tree. According to the folk tale, after Jack died, he was denied entrance to Heaven because of his evil ways, but he was also denied access to Hell because he had tricked the devil. Instead, the devil gave him a single ember to light his way through the frigid darkness. The ember was placed inside a hollowed-out turnip to keep it glowing longer. The Irish used turnips as their "Jack's lanterns" originally. When the immigrants came to America, they found that pumpkins were far more plentiful than turnips. So the Jack-O-Lantern in America became a hollowed-out pumpkin, lit with an ember. Although some cults and Satanists may have adopted Halloween as their favorite "holiday," the day itself did not grow out of evil practices. It grew out of the rituals of Celts celebrating a new year, and out of Medieval prayer rituals of the Europeans.

Today Halloween is becoming once again and adult holiday or masquerade, like mardi Gras. Men and women in every disguise imaginable are taking to the streets of American cities and parading past carved, candlelit jack o'lanterns, as they re-enacting the masked antics of the past and challenge, mock, tease, and appease the dread forces of the night, of the soul, and of the otherworld. In so doing, they are reaffirming death and its place as a part of life in an exhilarating celebration of a holy and magic evening which is as good or evil as you care to make it...

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HALLOWEEN LINKS & PROSE
HALLOWEEN LINKS & PROSE

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"HALLOWEEN PROSE"
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He's just not the Eternal Life keeper..."

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Halloween Facts and Misinformation
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Origin of All Hallows Eve, Why do we celebrate Halloween, Origin of Halloween, history of halloween, facts about halloween,
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Why do we celebrate Halloween "Origin of Halloween" history of halloween "history customs of halloween"

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