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What is Halloween?Well, Halloween or Hallowe'en (a contraction of All Hallows' Evening), also known as Allhalloween, All Hallows' Eve, or All Saints' Eve, is a spooky celebration observed every year in a number of countries on October 31 - the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows' Day, also known as All Saints' Day. In 2017, Halloween falls on a Tuesday.
The Americanised (Americanized?) Halloween that we experience today actually originated in the Celtic fringes of Britain, and was adapted over the decades by Christian traditions, immigrants' conventions and an insatiable desire for sweets. http://hulumagazine.com
What has Halloween got to do with dressing up?Celts dressed up in white with blackened faces during the festival of Samhain to trick the evil spirits that they believed would be roaming the earth before All Saints' Day on November 1st. By the 11th century, this had been adapted by the Church into a tradition called 'souling', which is seen as being the origin of trick-or-treating. Children go door-to-door, asking for soul cakes in exchange for praying for the souls of friends and relatives. They went dressed up as angels, demons or saints. The soul cakes were sweet, with a cross marked on top and when eaten they represented a soul being freed from purgatory.
Halloween trick-or-treatingThe phrase trick-or-treat was first used in America in 1927, with the traditions brought over to America by immigrants. Guising gave way to threatening pranks in exchange for sweets. After a brief lull during the sugar rations in World War Two, Halloween became a widespread holiday that revolved around children, with newly built suburbs providing a safe place for children to roam free. Costumes became more adventurous - in Victorian ages, they were influenced by gothic themes in literature, and dressed as bats and ghosts or what seemed exotic, such as an Egyptian pharoah. Later, costumes became influenced by pop culture, and became more sexualised in the 1970s. Many of us have fallen victim to a scary Halloween prank, or even played the nasty trickster ourselves. From jumping out of bushes dressed as zombies or spooking people in their sleep as ghosts - the terrifying list of possibilities is endless.
Why do we carve pumpkins?The carving of pumpkins originates from the Samhain festival, when Gaels would carve turnips to ward off spirits and stop fairies from settling in houses.
Six peculiar Halloween traditionsIn Czech culture, chairs for deceased family members are placed by the fire on Halloween night alongside chairs for each living one. In Austria some people leave bread, water and a lighted lamp on the table before going to bed. It is believed that this will welcome dead souls back to Earth. Meanwhile in Germany, people hide their knives to make sure none of the returning spirits are harmed – or seek to harm them! Barnbrack, a fruitcake, is used as part of a fortune telling game in Ireland. Muslin-wrapped treats are baked inside. If a ring is found, it means that the person will soon be wed; a piece of straw means a prosperous year is on its way; a pea means the person will not marry that year; a stick means an unhappy marriage or dispute; a coin represents good fortune.
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