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Halloween

HALLOWEEN

HALLOWEEN. Halloween (also Hallowe'en) is thought to have derived from a pre-Christian festival known as Samhain (pronounced "Sah-wen") celebrated among the Celtic peoples. The various peoples whom we now refer to as "Celts" once lived across Europe, but in time came to inhabit the areas known today as Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Brittany, and Cornwall. Modern Irish, Welsh, and Scots peoples are the descendants of these peoples, as are their Gaelic languages.

History

Samhain was the principal feast day of the year; it was the New Year's Day of a year that began on 1 November. Traditionally, bonfires were lit as part of the celebration. It was believed that the spirits of those who had died during the previous twelve months were granted access into the otherworld during Samhain. Thus, spirits were said to be traveling on that evening, as the Celtic day was counted from sundown to sundown.

Scholars know little about the actual practices and beliefs associated with Samhain. Most accounts were not written down until centuries after the conversion of Ireland to Christianity (c. 300 C.E.), and then by Christian monks recording ancient sagas. From the evidence, we know that Samhain was a focal point of the yearly cycle, and that traditions of leaving out offerings of food and drink to comfort the wandering spirits had joined the bonfire custom. Also, the tradition of mummingdressing in disguise and performing from home to home in exchange for food or drink, as well as pranking, perhaps in imitation of the wandering spirits, or simply as a customary activity found throughout Europehad become part of the occasion. With the acceptance of Christianity, the dates of the pre-Christian festivals were used as occasions for church feast and holy days. The first day of November became, in the sixth century, the Feast of All Saints, or All Hallows. Many of the folk traditions surrounding this occasion continued, and the Eve of All Hallows, Hallow Evening, has become conflated into the word "Hallowe'en." In the ninth century, 2 November was assigned the Feast of All Souls, a day set aside for prayers for all the faithful departed who had died during the previous year.

Halloween was brought to North America with Irish and British colonists, although it was not widely observed until the large influx of European immigrants in the nineteenth century, especially the Irish fleeing the potato famine in the 1840s and thereafter. In the United States, Hallowe'en, celebrated on 31 October, was a time for parties and pranking. As a festival of autumn, the fruits, vegetables, and foods associated with it are those of the harvest. Games were and are still played with apples, and the primary symbol of Halloween is the jack-o'-lantern, the great, carved pumpkin. Likewise, both apple pie and pumpkin pie are commonly served.

Samhain in Ireland

In Ireland, however, Halloween is much more a harvest festival than it is in the United States, where Thanksgiving has become the official day of thanks for abundance. As Samhain, November Eve was one of the four great quarter days of the year, each one marking the beginning of a new season. Samhain also marked the start of a new year. Halloween commands a place of honor in Ireland today greater than in the United States. And in fact it functions much like Thanksgiving does here. Family meals and a gathering of relatives are common. There is pranking throughout the season, and Halloween rhyming, in which young people go from door to door for weeks in advance of 31 October, present a rhyme or perform a song of some sort, in return for nuts, apples, or money. The money is spent on fireworks. Also well in advance of the actual day, lanterns are carved out of large turnips, called swedes, or rutabegas in the United States. These are given a face and a handle, and are carried about or set on walls to create a spooky atmosphere. When the old tradition of the turnip lantern was brought to the new world, settlers found the already hollow pumpkin to be preferable to the hard turnip, and so the pumpkin replaced the turnip in the United States. But the pumpkin is a fruit introduced to Europeans by Native Americans and is not native to Ireland, Great Britain, or the rest of Europe.

By carving a face on a turnip or a pumpkin, one transforms the organic item into a cultural one. The jack-o'-lantern is the wandering spirit of a man who was refused entry into either heaven or hell in the afterlife. He is condemned to wander this earth, carrying a lantern to guide his way. He is a trickster; he will lead hapless souls who follow his light to no good. The turnip lantern is said to represent the spirits of the deadghosts. The organic items are made to reference the supernatural. Also, they are turned into another kind of cultural item: food. Pumpkin pies and mashed turnips are foods of the season, and represent domestic aspects of Halloween. The wild, unpredictable outside and the safe, nuturing inside are two poles of this festival. Halloween combines danger and safety, as when trick-or-treaters in the United States are invited in for cider and doughnuts. In Ireland, the inversive elements usually precede the day itself, which is given over to parties, special meals, and traditional games. These games are often played with the seasonal foods, such as dunking for apples, but they are also used in a playful way as divination games. For instance, Halloween in Ireland is also known as Nut Crack Night, because a common game is to place two nuts together near the hearth, name them for an adolescent or courting couple, then see what the effect of the heat is on the nuts. If they explode and pop away from each other, their relationship is doomed.

Divination and Halloween food come together in the apple tarts (pies) and the cakes known as barm brack. Barm brack means speckled bread. It is a corn loaf, and it is baked with tokens inside, usually a ring, but also a thimble, or a button. To get the ring means you will be married; the button suggests bachelorhood for a man, and a thimble, spinsterhood for a woman. There may be other tokens as well. The apple tart is also baked with charms, usually a coin (preferably silver). This means good luck for the recipient. These food customs are widespread in Irelandone sees the bakeshops advertising their apple tarts and barm bracks "with rings and mottoes." Likewise, in the supermarkets, quantities of apples, hazelnuts, peanuts in the shell (called monkeynuts), and even coconuts are displayed alongside soft drinks and false faces.

Many are the divination games and rites of Halloween. It is said, for instance, that one should peel an apple continuously, so that the peel is in one long piece, and then toss it over one's left shoulder. The peel will land and form the initial of one's future love. Typically, these games are played by girls, to whom the indoor, domestic, nurturing realm is given, while the adolescent boys collect bonfire materials and engage in games of macho daring with firecrackers. Halloween is in these ways very gendered.

According to some accounts, the Halloween supper has featured a roast fowl or even meat, but as the day before a Holy Day of Obligation in the Catholic Church, Halloween has traditionally been a day of abstinence from meat. The dishes most associated with Halloween in Irelandcolcannon, champ, and boxtyare all made from root vegetables and earthy harvests such as potatoes and cabbage. Champ is mashed potatoes, frequently with leeks, and served with a pool of melted butter in the top. Colcannon is potatoes and cabbage. Boxty is mashed potatoes mixed with grated raw potatoes, onion, and cabbage, which are then boiled, cut into portions and fried.

These traditional foods are emblematic of Halloween for many in Ireland. Sometimes, portions were left out for the fairies. In an article published in 1958, K. M. Harris quotes a man who recalls his mother putting salt on the head of each child to prevent them from being taken away by the "wee people" on Halloween. He also recounts her placing a thimble-full of salt on each plate. If the salt fell down that person would die in the next twelve months. These beliefs indicate the continued association of food with the supernatural, and perhaps echo the "old" new year's day of Samhain in the idea that what happens on this night affects the next twelve months.

Periods of transition and seasonal change frequently are felt to be times when the barriers between the natural and the supernaturalbetween our world and the otherworldare opened. During such times, spirits and otherworldly creatures such as fairies are especially active. They are dangerous and must be appeased; thus the offerings of food. But they are also tricksters, and can be imitated, thus lending an air of inversion to Halloween.

Halloween in the United States

In the United States, 31 October has become a major celebration that appeals to adults as well as children, as shown by the elaborate homemade and store-bought decorations people use to decorate their homes, and also by the adult street festivals, masquerades, and parties found all over the United States. Commercially, Halloween has become second only to Christmas in the amount of revenue it generates.

Ironically, by the mid-twentieth century, Halloween in the United States had become almost exclusively a children's event. The custom of trick-or-treating (the American version of Halloween rhyming) seems to have been introduced in the 1930s as an alternative to the children's pranking activitiessometimes dangerous, such as logs in the road; always a nuisance (Tuleja, 1994). Trick-ortreating became a widespread activity after World War II. While treats could include apples and homemade sweets, the favored treat was commercially produced candy. In the United States, then, Halloween has always reflected the commercial culture of capitalism. Apocryphal stories known as "urban legends" have circulated about poisoned treats and apples with razor blades hidden in them. While there has been no substantial verification of the stories, the belief is widespread. The result is that homemade treats and natural fruits are looked at suspiciouslymany communities offer Halloween treat X-raying services. Now so more than ever, the commer cially produced sweet is preferred (Ellis, 1994).

By the late twentieth century, as the generation that had enjoyed Halloween as children became adults, the holiday returned to being one in which different age groups engaged. College students hosted large costume parties. Cities such as New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco had major street festivals. As a day of public costuming and inversion, a time when people confronted images of the taboorepresentations of death, evil, and chaos, Halloween had long been used by the gay population as a "safe" time to parade in drag, to publicly display an identity that they must keep hidden the rest of the year. By the end of the twentieth century, the rest of the population joined them to create a kind of national Mardi Gras. Unlike the actual Fat Tuesday, however, this carnival is in the autumn, and it combines seasonal images of the harvest with images of human death (ghosts and skeletons) as well as other unspeakables. Halloween is a time when it is safe to play with our fears, to allow our demons to come out from under the bed and take center stage once a year.

See also British Isles, subentries on England and Ireland ; Christianity ; Day of the Dead ; Feasts, Festivals, and Fasts ; Holidays ; Shrove Tuesday.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Ellis, Bill. "'Safe' Spooks: New Hallowe'en Traditions in Response to Sadism Legends." In Hallowe'en and Other Festivals of Death and Life, edited by Jack Jack Santino, pp. 2444. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1994.

Harris, K. M. "Extracts from the Committee's Collection." Ulster Folklife 4 (1958): 3749.

Santino, Jack. All Around the Year: Holidays and Celebrations in American Life. Champaign-Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994.

Santino, Jack, ed. Hallowe'en and Other Festivals of Death and Life. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1994.

Santino, Jack. The Hallowed Eve: Dimensions of Culture in a Calendar Festival in Northern Ireland. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 1998.

Tuleja, Tad. "Trick or Treat: Pre-texts and Contexts." In Hallowe'en and Other Festivals of Death and Life, edited by Jack Santino, pp. 82102. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1994.

Jack Santino

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Halloween

Halloween


The history of Halloween began with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, the last day of the Celtic year. The holiday was celebrated at the end of summer and the beginning of winter, as days became shorter and nights longer. The Celts believed that the dead returned on Samhain, and they created traditions to keep themselves safe from evil spirits, including dressing up in costume to fool the dead.

During the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church appropriated the Celtic festival of Samhain with the express purpose of absorbing pagan celebrations into the Christian cycle of holidays. The resulting All Saints' Day was officially moved to November 1 by Pope Gregory III in the eighth century. Also called All Hallows, the night before became known as All Hallows Eve, which later became Hallowe'en, and finally Halloween.

Other traditions contributed to the evolution of Halloween as an American holiday. The historian Lesley Bannatyne refers to Protestant English settlers of the eighteenth century importing the tradition of Guy Fawkes Day. Cited by numerous authors as a source for Halloween, celebrations of this holiday often took on an anti-Catholic theme, with celebrants burning effigies of the Pope as well as other major contemporary figures. The holiday began in 1605, when English Protestants foiled a plot by Catholics to blow up the Houses of Parliament in London. Celebrations also included pranks, masquerades, bonfires, and fireworks.

However, the Protestants, a large, influential group, frowned upon Halloween celebrations, effectively stopping any systematic observation of the festival in the United States until the nineteenth century. Elements of the European folk holiday remained, however. After the American Revolution, "play parties" became popular in the form of harvest celebrations for families.

Halloween evolved into a holiday for children in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as less frightening entertainments replaced commemorations of the dead. A large amount of printed ephemera about and for Halloween was produced at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth, specifically for children. The earliest examples of this new genre were made by the lithographer Raphael Tuck, also known for the manufacture of paper dolls. The first quarter of the twentieth century also heralded the rise of businesses manufacturing products specifically for Halloween. Today Halloween is a major consumer holiday second in gross revenues only to Christmas.

Trick-or-treating, which began as a Thanksgiving tradition as early as 1881, became a major Halloween ritual in the 1920s. The phrase itself was first published in 1939 and has been used ever since. The "open house" tradition of welcoming trick-or-treaters (especially small children) became increasingly widespread in the 1930s.

For children Halloween is also traditionally an occasion to explore boundaries, often breaking rules or bypassing parental authority (whether symbolic or actual). In the past as in the present, this aspect of the holiday was often negative. By the 1930s the tradition of committing acts of vandalism on Halloween was a major concern of adults. Schools and civic groups across the country organized celebrations for children and teenagers in an effort to curb vandalism, a tradition that continues. Today Halloween is still a holiday primarily for children, which still includes age-old traditions such as dressing up in costumes and frightening masks and requesting candy favors.

See also: Parades; Vacations.

bibliography

Bannatyne, Lesley Pratt. 1990. Halloween: An American Holiday, An American History. New York: Facts on File.

Sklar, David J. 2002. Death Makes A Holiday: A Cultural History of Halloween. New York: Bloomsbury.

Shira Silverman

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"Halloween." Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood in History and Society. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Halloween

Halloween (hăl´əwēn´, häl´–), Oct. 31, the eve of All Saints' Day, observed with traditional games and customs. The word comes from medieval England's All Hallows' eve [Old Eng. hallow=saint]. However, many of these customs predate Christianity, going back to Celtic practices associated with Nov. 1, which was Samhain (sä´wĬn), the beginning of winter and the Celtic new year. Witches and other evil spirits were believed to roam the earth on this evening, playing tricks on human beings to mark the season of diminishing sunlight. Bonfires were lit, offerings were made of dainty foods and sweets, and people would disguise themselves as one of the roaming spirits, to avoid demonic persecution. Survivals of these early practices can be found in countries of Celtic influence today, such as the United States where children go from door to door in costumes demanding "trick or treat."

See N. Rogers, Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night (2002), D. J. Skal, Death Makes a Holiday: A Cultural History of Halloween (2002).

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Halloween

Halloween the night of 31 October, the eve of All Saints' Day. Halloween is of pre-Christian origin, being associated with the Celtic festival Samhain, when ghosts and spirits were thought to be abroad. Adopted as a Christian festival, it gradually became a secular rather than a Christian observance, involving dressing up and the wearing of masks. These secular customs were popularized in the US in the late 19th century and later developed into the custom of children playing trick or treat.

The name is recorded from the late 18th century, and is a contraction of All Hallows Even ‘All Saints Eve’; hallow here means a holy person or saint.

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Halloween

Halloween or All Hallows Eve. A Christian festival on 31st Oct., the evening before All Saints, 1 Nov. It absorbed and adopted the Celtic new year festival, the eve and day of Samhain; as such, it was a time of reversals associated with liminality (see RITES OF PASSAGES), and much of this character has persisted in the now secularized customs associated with Halloween, especially in the USA.

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Halloween

Hallowe'en (hallowed or holy evening) In medieval times, a holy festival observed on October 31, the eve of All Saints' Day. It merged with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, which marked the beginning of the Celtic year. This was the occasion when fires were lit to frighten away evil spirits and to guide the souls of the dead who were supposed to revisit their homes on this day.

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Halloween

Hal·low·een / ˌhaləˈwēn; ˌhälə-; -ōˈēn/ (also Hal·low·e'en) • n. the night of October 31, the eve of All Saints' Day, commonly celebrated by children who dress in costume and solicit candy or other treats door-to-door.

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Halloween

HalloweenAberdeen, Amin, aquamarine, baleen, bean, been, beguine, Benin, between, canteen, careen, Claudine, clean, contravene, convene, cuisine, dean, Dene, e'en, eighteen, fascine, fedayeen, fifteen, figurine, foreseen, fourteen, Francine, gean, gene, glean, gombeen, green, Greene, Halloween, intervene, Janine, Jean, Jeannine, Jolene, Kean, keen, Keene, Ladin, langoustine, latrine, lean, limousine, machine, Maclean, magazine, Malines, margarine, marine, Mascarene, Massine, Maxine, mean, Medellín, mesne, mien, Moline, moreen, mujahedin, Nadine, nankeen, Nazarene, Nene, nineteen, nougatine, obscene, palanquin, peen, poteen, preen, quean, queen, Rabin, Racine, ramin, ravine, routine, Sabine, saltine, sardine, sarin, sateen, scene, screen, seen, serene, seventeen, shagreen, shebeen, sheen, sixteen, spleen, spring-clean, squireen, Steen, submarine, supervene, tambourine, tangerine, teen, terrine, thirteen, transmarine, treen, tureen, Tyrrhene, ultramarine, umpteen, velveteen, wean, ween, Wheen, yean •soybean • buckbean

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