America has often been compared to a tossed salad with multitudes of customs and traditions blended together. The majority of the holidays celebrated in America were brought here by immigrants and were tossed into the salad of American traditions. One of these holidays is Halloween celebrated every October 31st with children of all ages dressing up in costumes for an evening of spooks and candy. Irish immigrants in the 1840’s, brought their Fall tradition of Hallow-mas with them to America that grew to be Halloween. Hallow-mas is an Irish tradition that stems back thousands of years and is a blend of Paganism and Christianity from the Celtic Festival, Samhain and the Christian Holy day, All Saints Day.
Celtic people over 2000 years ago celebrated the festival of Samhain for three days beginning the eve of their New Year. They wore costumes of animals or men dressed up as woman and woman as men, children knocked on neighbors doors for food, and fortunes were desired. Samhain was and still is considered a very magical time, when the spirits of the dead are among the living and the veils between past, present and future may be lifted in prophecy and divination.
Christianity found its way to the shores of Ireland around 800 A.D. The Celtic began being heavily influenced by the new people and their religion. During the 7th Century, Pope Boniface IV designated November 1st as All Saints Day or All hallows which is the same day as the Celtic New Year. Samhain began being called All hallows Eve. By 1000 A.D., the Pope designated November 2nd as All Souls Day. The three days were known as Hallow-mas.
As we browse the cover of history, customs we enact for Halloween today can be seen rooted in the Celtic festival Samhain and the Irish holiday Hallow-mas. Inside this book lies the origins of the symbolism embodying Halloween including the influences from the American people, who added the witches and Jack ‘o’ Lanterns. Also, they changed the tradition of a festival honoring the dead or spirits to a holiday of fearing them. But, that topic is for another day, I am off to find a costume for this year. Have any ideas?