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Halloween Halloween
by The Ovi Team
2017-10-31 08:12:19
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Historian Nicholas Rogers, exploring the origins of Halloween, notes that while "some folklorists have detected its origins in the Roman feast of Pomona, the goddess of fruits and seeds, or in the festival of the dead called Parentalia, it is more typically linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain, whose original spelling was Samuin (pronounced sow-an or sow-in)". The name is derived from Old Irish and means roughly "summer's end". A similar festival was held by the ancient Britons and is known as Calan Gaeaf (pronounced Kálan Gái av).

The festival of Samhain celebrates the end of the "lighter half" of the year and beginning of the "darker half", and is sometimes regarded as the "Celtic New Year".

halloween01The ancient Celts believed that the border between this world and the Otherworld became thin on Samhain, allowing spirits (both harmless and harmful) to pass through. The family's ancestors were honoured and invited home while harmful spirits were warded off. It is believed that the need to ward off harmful spirits led to the wearing of costumes and masks. Their purpose was to disguise oneself as a harmful spirit and thus avoid harm. In Scotland the spirits were impersonated by young men dressed in white with masked, veiled or blackened faces. Samhain was also a time to take stock of food supplies and slaughter livestock for winter stores. Bonfires played a large part in the festivities. All other fires were doused and each home lit their hearth from the bonfire. The bones of slaughtered livestock were cast into its flames. Sometimes two bonfires would be built side-by-side, and people and their livestock would walk between them as a cleansing ritual.

Another common practice was divination, which often involved the use of food and drink. The name 'Halloween' and many of its present-day traditions derive from the Old English era.

The word Halloween is first attested in the 16th century and represents a Scottish variant of the fuller All-Hallows-Even ("evening"), that is, the night before All Hallows Day. Up through the early 20th century, the spelling "Hallowe'en" was frequently used, eliding the "v" and shortening the word. Although the phrase All Hallows is found in Old English (ealra hālgena mæssedæg, mass-day of all saints), All-Hallows-Even is itself not attested until 1556.

Development of artefacts and symbols associated with Halloween formed over time encompassing customs of medieval holy days as well as contemporary cultures. The souling practice of commemorating the souls in purgatory with candle lanterns carved from turnips became adapted into the making of jack-o'-lanterns. In traditional Celtic Halloween festivals, large turnips were hollowed out, carved with faces, and placed in windows to ward off evil spirits. The carving of pumpkins is associated with Halloween in North America where pumpkins are both readily available and much larger – making them easier to carve than turnips. Many families that celebrate Halloween carve a pumpkin into a frightening or comical face and place it on their doorstep after dark. The American tradition of carving pumpkins preceded the Great Famine period of Irish immigration and was originally associated with harvest time in general, not becoming specifically associated with Halloween until the mid-to-late 19th century.
 
The imagery of Halloween is derived from many sources, including national customs, works of Gothic and horror literature (such as the novels Frankenstein and Dracula), and classic horror films (such as Frankenstein and The Mummy). Elements of the autumn season, such as pumpkins, corn husks, and scarecrows, are also prevalent. Homes are often decorated with these types of symbols around Halloween.

Halloween imagery includes themes of death, evil, and the occult, magic, or mythical monsters. Traditional characters include ghosts, witches, skeletons, vampires, werewolves, demons, bats, spiders, and black cats. Black and orange are the traditional Halloween colours and represent the darkness of night and the colour of bonfires, autumn leaves, and jack-o'-lanterns.

Christian attitudes towards Halloween are quite diverse. In the Anglican Church, some dioceses have chosen to emphasize the Christian traditions of All Saints’ Day, while some other Protestants celebrate the holiday as Reformation Day, a day to remember the Protestant Reformation. Father Gabriele Amorth, a Vatican-appointed exorcist in Rome, has said, "if English and American children like to dress up as witches and devils on one night of the year that is not a problem. If it is just a game, there is no harm in that." In more recent years, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston has organized a "Saint Fest" on the holiday. Similarly, many contemporary Protestant churches view Halloween as a fun event for children, holding events in their churches where children and their parents can dress up, play games, and get candy.

Many Christians ascribe no negative significance to Halloween, treating it as a purely secular holiday devoted to celebrating "imaginary spooks" and handing out candy. To these Christians, Halloween holds no threat to the spiritual lives of children: being taught about death and mortality, and the ways of the Celtic ancestors actually being a valuable life lesson and a part of many of their parishioners' heritage. In the Roman Catholic Church Halloween is viewed as having a Christian connection, and Halloween celebrations are common in Catholic parochial schools throughout North America and in Ireland.

Other Christians feel concerned about Halloween, and reject the holiday because they feel it trivializes - or celebrates - paganism, the occult, or other practices and cultural phenomena deemed incompatible with their beliefs. A response among some fundamentalist and conservative evangelical churches in recent years has been the use of 'Hell houses', themed pamphlets, or comic-style tracts such as those created by Jack T. Chick in order to make use of Halloween's popularity as an opportunity for evangelism. Some consider Halloween to be completely incompatible with the Christian faith because of its origin as a pagan "Festival of the Dead". For example, Jehovah's Witnesses do not celebrate Halloween because they believe anything that originated from a pagan holiday should not be celebrated by true Christians.


   
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Emanuel Paparella2014-10-31 22:34:39
There are plenty of pagan festivals which were absorbed and even welcomed by Christianity (one thinks of the Winter solstice festivities transformed in Christmas holidays)but the fact that Halloween is not celebrated in most Catholic countries and that it comes a day before the commonly celebrated feast of all saints in those some countries, ought to suggest something...It may in fact be an anti-Catholic event; but of course nobody knows or cares to know any longer in a society that has become in effect a pagan society celebrating even religious festivities as pagan rituals. Just a thought worth pondering.


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