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Festival of Halloween meaning: when it was really born

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On the night of October 31, we celebrate an anniversary that is now depopulated even overseas: Halloween. Its origins, however, seem to be older than one might think. According to a widely shared tradition, the anniversary dates back to the Celts.

Now known around the world, it has also become a part of culture overseas, Halloween is a holiday that many believe is tied to American culture. In reality, this tradition, represented by “monstrous” and frightening symbols, has much older origins and is linked to Ireland.

Halloween Meaning Party

In fact, this anniversary seems to coincide with what is called Samhain, or the Celtic New Year. From Ireland, the tradition would come to America with the immigrants, who arrived in the new country following the famine of the 19th century. A fascinating story of which we tell some emblematic passages.

From the Celts to the present day

Starting from the etymology of the name, Halloween in Irish is Hallow E’en, or All Hallows’ Eve: from the archaic word Hallow (Saint), Eve of all Saints. The Celts were primarily a herding people and their lives were marked by the times imposed by cattle herding. At the end of each summer season, the shepherds brought their flocks back to the valley and prepared for the onset of winter and the new year. For the Celts, in fact, the new year began on November 1; that is, when the hot season ended and the cold and dark season began. The night that marked the change from the old to the new year was celebrated with Samhain, which derives from the Gaelic samhuinn and means the end of summer (end of summer). As in any ancient tradition, the New Year celebrations also served to exorcise the arrival of the most rigid season with all the dangers associated with it.

Halloween Masks

Death was the main protagonist of the party, because in fact it represented what happened in nature. During the winter, life on Earth seems to be dormant, but in reality it regenerates underground, where, among other things, the dead rest. And it is precisely from this theme that the juxtaposition between Samhain and the cult of the dead is not difficult. The Celts believed that on the eve of each new year, i.e. October 31, the spirits of the dead could reunite with the world of living beings, causing (only for this night) a suspension of the laws of time. That night people gathered in the woods and lit the sacred fire, making animal sacrifices. With grotesque masks, they returned to the villages holding torches made with carved onions, inside which were placed the embers of the Holy Fire.

Charity please?

With the great famine of the 19th century, there was a great migration to America and the migrants also brought their traditions to the new land. What remained and was transmitted from the Samhain festival was above all the playful aspect. Today, in fact, as it has also been absorbed by Europe, the Halloween party is an opportunity to party, with those grotesque masks that have become costumes for zombies, witches and ghosts, and give children the opportunity to perform the famous “ritual” of “trick or treat”. Which, without thinking too much, also derives from Celtic custom. Indeed, during the night of Samhain, people left food on the table in homage to the dead to prevent them from having fun upsetting the living. The custom, then exported to the United States, provides that during the trick-or-treat not only do you knock on the door, but you do it 13 times, this to avoid a year of bad luck.

halloween pumpkins

And finally, even one of the most undisputed symbols of Halloween, the pumpkin, has its origins in lore. According to Irish legend, the blacksmith Stringy Jack is said to have sold his soul to the devil to pay his debts. After several scams, Jack made a final pact with the devil, thanks to which he would remain in peace for ten years. The blacksmith, however, died the following year, exactly on Halloween night. Expelled from Heaven, Jack went to Hell where the devil, to respect the pact, pushed him back with a burning ember. The blacksmith then cut a turnip and picked up the embers to light up his incessant wanderings between paradise and hell. Over time, turnips being difficult to carve, the tradition passed to carve pumpkins, never forgetting to add candles inside.

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