Did you realize the traditions of Halloween come from Irish heritage? As millions of children and adults participate in the fun of Halloween on the night of October 31st, few will be aware of its ancient Celtic roots in the Samhain festival. In Celtic Ireland about 2000 years ago, Samhain (pronounced SOW-in, SAH-vin, or SAM-hayne) was the division of the year between the lighter half (summer) and the darker half (winter). At Samhain the division between this world and the Otherworld was at its thinnest, allowing spirits to pass through. It is one of the two "spirit-nights" each year, the other being Beltane, when it’s magical interval when the mundane laws of time and space are temporarily suspended, and the Thin Veil between the worlds is lifted. Communicating with ancestors and departed loved ones is easy at this time, for they journey through this world on their way to the Summerlands.
The family's ancestors were honoured and invited home whilst harmful spirits were warded off. People wore costumes and masks to disguise themselves as harmful spirits and thus avoid harm. Bonfires and food played a large part in the festivities. The bones of slaughtered livestock were cast into a communal fire, household fires were extinguished and started again from the bonfire. Food was prepared for the living and the dead, food for the ancestors who were in no position it eat it, was ritually shared with the less well off.
Christianity incorporated the honouring of the dead into the Christian calendar with All Saints (All Hallows) on November 1 followed by All Souls on November 2. The wearing of costumes and masks to ward off harmful spirits survived as Halloween customs.
The Irish emigrated to America in great numbers during the 19th century especially around the time of famine in Ireland during the 1840's. The Irish carried their Halloween traditions to America, where today it is one of the major holidays of the year. Through time other traditions have blended into Halloween, for example the American harvest time tradition of carving pumpkins.
Stay tuned kiddies ...TOMORROW ... the history of the pumpkin and Halloween!!!