All Hallows Eve- a History lesson

Turns out I’m 10000% going to be that nerdy mom that uses just about any excuse possible to give a little history lesson. If you didn’t already know this about me, I love history. I even wanted to be an archeologist when I was younger. SO, in the spirit of Halloween, I thought I’d do some research on how my favorite holiday came to be.

+ Halloween originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain : an event where people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts. Those celebrating believed that the barriers between the physical world and the spirit world would “break down” during this time (October 31st-November 1st) allowing for more interaction between the two. They believed that on the night of October 31st, the ghost of the dead returned to earth.

+ Black cats & bad luck : the theory that crossing paths with a black cat on Halloween being bad luck started during the Middle Ages, when people thought that witches would avoid detection by turning themselves into black cats.

+ All Saint’s Day : a day where feasts were held to celebrate the lives of saints who did not have a day of their own. Originally held in May, in the 8th century, Pope Gregory III moved the day of the feast to November 1st. The motivation for this move is widely thought to have been an intentional move to Christianize Samhain.

+ Jack-o-lanterns : associated with the Irish folk take of Stingy Jack, a clever drunk who out-smarted the devil into banning him from hell while knowing he was unable to enter heaven. After hisΒ death, legend has it he roamed the world carrying a small lantern made of a turnip with a red-hot ember from hell inside to light his way. The Irish (after coming to America) shortly adopted the pumpkin in place of the turnip because it was easier to carve.

+ Costumes & masks : originally used during ancient festivals to ward off evil spirits.

+ Bats: legend has it that during the Samhain celebrations, bonfires attracted bugs, which in turn attracted bats. Later, folklore turned bats into symbols of death and doom. In Nova Scotian mythology, if a bat enters the house, it means a man in the family will die. If it flies around and tries to escape, a woman in the family will perish instead.

+ Feralia & Pomona : Roman holidays and festivals that took over the tradition of Samhain once the Romans overtook and conquered the Celtics. Feralia was already a Roman festival to commemorate the passing of the dead. Pomona was a Roman holiday to honor the Roman goddess of fruit and trees- which is why bobbing for apples became a Halloween tradition.

+ Getting to America : Halloween was first brought stateside by the Southern Colonies. People began to celebrate the harvest, swap ghost stories, and even tell each other’s fortunes.

Anything fun you know about Halloween? Let me know in the comments!

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