Halloween isn't a new holiday by any means, but instead can be traced back to the Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced Sow-een). For the Celts (and many modern day Pagans), Samhain marked the end of the harvest season. It was the Celtic New Year. Samhain was a time to reflect on what had passed, and to plan for the year ahead. Samhain festivals often included both seriousness and prayer, games and revelry.
During this time, the veil between worlds was thin, allowing for those on the other side to slip through. People left out offerings to appease the Aos Si (spirits or fae). In many areas, the offerings left to appease the spirits included turnips which were often intricately carved. That tradition, of course, continues in our use of carved pumpkins
In addition to the more mischievous or naughty spirits returning, people believed that dead relatives were able to visit on this one night. The brief return of these relatives was very much welcomed, and people made a point to ensure they knew it by setting places for them at their tables. Prayers for the dead were an important part of Samhain.
In some areas, people would dress in costumes and go door to door, collecting gifts of food along the way. Sound familiar? The story on why this custom started depends on who you ask. According to some, dressing up in costume was a way to hide from the more mischievous spirits who returned to Earth on Samhain. According to others, the custom started with Christianity, in which the poor and young children would go door to door, saying prayers for the dead in exchange for what was known as soul cakes.
As people began to realize costumes helped hide them from other people as well as from the Aos Si, they'd play tricks on one another, another tradition which continues to this day.
Pretty cool history for something we consider to be a silly holiday, huh?
Be safe tonight, lovelies.
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