Origin of Halloween
Halloween, also known as All Hallows’ Eve, can be dated back about 2,000 years ago: a pre-Christian Celtic festival held around Nov. 1 called Samhain. During the Iron Age, the Celts who lived in Ireland, Scotland, the U.K. and other parts of Northern Europe celebrated a day called “Samhain”. Samhain means “summer’s end” in Irish, which also represent the Celtic new year.
Samhain also has two personified name, “Lord of Dead” and “Prince of Darkness”, bringing cold and dark winter to Celtic land. The Celtics are frightened at the night of October 31 because they think that tens of thousands of evils are ambushing everywhere. By dressing up in animal skins and heads as a disguise, pretending themselves as spirits and demons as well. Therefore, the real ones couldn’t distinguish that they are actually human being.
The Roman then occupied the Celtic lands by 43 A.D., the Roman festivals and the Samhain ceremonies of the Celtics on October 31 became the present Halloween. For Taiwanese culture, even we are mostly believing in Buddha, but Taiwanese are not missing this Christian festival.
Custom of Halloween
The tradition of Halloween costumes originated from the Celts that we have mentioned earlier in this article. The tradition then made its way to America and took on a different form. Irish immigrated to the United States during the 19th century and made Halloween more and more popular during 20th century.
On Halloween, it was believed that the spirits and ghosts of the dead came back to roam the earth. People then wore masks and “dressed up” in an outfit to look like one of the spirits to avoid being recognized as one of the living.
Jack O’Lanterns originates with a miserable man named Jack, likes to tricked everyone including the devil. He then cannot enter either heaven or hell after his death. Instead, the devil gave him a single burning coal to light his way at night to “find his own hell”. He and the lights were dubbed “Jack of the Lantern,” or “Jack O’Lantern.”
The legend immigrated to the new world with the Irish: making vegetable lanterns was a tradition of the British Isles, and carved-out turnips, beets, and potatoes were stuffed with coal, wood embers, or candles as impromptu lanterns to celebrate the fall harvest. In America, pumpkins were easy enough to carve into jack-o-lanterns, light and place outside of doorways for the same purpose.
Trick or Treating
Modern day trick-or-treating is a confluence of various traditions; it has evolved centuries ago in Ireland. To prepare for All Hollow’s Eve, the poor would call upon the rich folks and request money, gifts and food. The food was gathered for a huge feast and celebration. Even in Taiwan, adults will bring kids to do trick or treat.
History: “Did you know? Although it is unknown precisely where and when the phrase “trick or treat” was coined, the custom had been firmly established in American popular culture by 1951, when trick-or-treating was depicted in the Peanuts comic strip. In 1952, Disney produced a cartoon called “Trick or Treat” featuring Donald Duck and his nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie.”
In Northern Ireland, it was customary for Druids to perform ritualistic ceremonies and make sacrifices to pacify their gods. The Celts would bring wood and start their Samhain bonfire or, fire festival, on the hilltop. Often, they would throw the bones of slaughtered cattle into the flames.
The word “bonfire” is said to be derived from such “bone fires”. Bonfires and sacrifices guaranteed that the sun would burn brightly after a long, dreary winter. It’s common to witness hundreds of traditional bonfires in Ireland every year on Halloween Night.
Death or Ghost Festivals Around the World
- Hungry Ghost Festival in Taiwan and China
- Qingming Jie (also called “Tomb Sweeping Festival”) in Taiwan and China
- Obon Festival in Japan
- Chuseok in North and South Korea
- Gai Jatra in Nepal
- Pchum Ben in Cambodia
- Pitru Paksha by Hindus all around the world
- Totensonntag in Germany
- Día de Muertos in Mexico and wider Latin America