Saints and Souls and Fairies
This weekend, people of all ages dress up in costumes and make merry. The children go out for candy, the adults possibly eat in and sip their treats. It’s all fun and doesn’t require the work of the upcoming winter holidays.
Fun wasn’t always the case. The word Halloween dates back to 1745. All hallows (saints/souls) eve, the evening before all saint’s day, became Halloween by combining hallows and even, the Scot word for evening, then contracted to Halloween. According to Wikipedia and other sources, there are multiple theories of where the tradition started. The most common one believes it all started with Celtic people, who believed on this night that spirits roamed. This belief may be based on the Celtic festival of Samhain, or summer’s end. It was the custom to mark the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter—the darker half of the year. It was thought the boundary between this world and the netherworld thinned at this time, making it easier for spirits and fairies to cross over. To placate these spirits, offerings of food and drink, or some of their harvest was made.
Ancient people in many cultures apparently believed that the souls of the dead come back only one night a year. They visited their homes and expected to be welcomed. Places were set for them at the table. I cannot verify if anyone actually had a spirit to dinner. In Ireland, candles were lit and prayers were said for the dead.
Mischief night seems to have evolved from the 15th century custom of imitating malignant spirits on all hallows eve by playing pranks while disguised in costumes.
It was the 16th century or earlier when folks dressed in costumes or disguise, went door to door, and recited poems or sang songs for food. This was called mumming or guising. Sounds a little more like the way we celebrate now.
Guisers or pranksters carried candles in hollowed out turnips or mongelwurzlers, carved with scary faces. Now known as Jack-O-lanterns, I’m sure you guessed. In case you are wondering, a mangelwurzler is a root vegetable that was used for fodder for animals.
But now most people just have fun on Halloween. And I hope that you will dress up and have fun, too!
Posted on October 26, 2015, in Issues of Interest, On Writing and tagged All Hallows Eve, costumes, customs, fairies, Halloween, Origins of Halloween, souls, Spirits. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.