THINKING THURSDAY – (enjoy learning something new!)
Here is a tiny bit of history.
About 2,000 years ago in the area of the world that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France, lived a group of people called the Celts. The Celts’ lives revolved around growing their food, and considered the end of the year to be the end of the harvest season. So, they celebrated new year’s eve each year on October 31st with a festival called “Samhain,” named after their Lord of the Dead (also known as the Lord of Darkness). Samhain (pronounced ‘sow-in’) was presided over by Celtic priests called Druids.
Back then, winter was the time of year associated with human death. The Celts believed that on the night that marked the end of summer and the beginning of winter, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead blurred allowing ghosts of the dead to return to earth. Celts thought that the presence of the ghosts made it easier for the Druids, their priests, to predict the future. These predictions were an important source of comfort and direction for the Celts during their long, dark, frightening winters.
To celebrate Samhain, the Druids built huge sacred bonfires around which the Celts gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to their ancient gods. During the celebration, the Celts dressed up in costumes consisting of animal heads and skins and tried to tell each other’s fortunes.
The Celts eventually were conquered by the Romans, and by about the year 43 AD two Roman festivals were combined with the Celtic Samhain festival. The first Roman festival was Feralia, a day in late October when the Romans traditionally commemorated the passing of the dead. The second was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple and the incorporation of this celebration into Samhain probably explains the tradition of “bobbing” for apples practiced today on Halloween.
By 800 AD, the influence of Christianity spread into Celtic lands. In the seventh century, replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related, but church-sanctioned holiday, Pope Boniface IV designated November 1st as All Saints’ Day, a time to honor saints and martyrs. The combined and updated celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints’ Day) and the night before it, the night of Samhain, began to be called All-hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween.
I watched a whole program on the history channel that was quite interesting. It spoke of medieval times and the fact that people went house to house asking for soul cakes. In return they prayed for people in purgatory.
Also there was the practice of going house to house and begging for food in masks. That way if you didn’t give food, the mask wearer’s may do damage to your property. And the masks protected them from people knowing who they were.
In the 1600’s they started the practice of carving turnips.
Stingy Jack, perhaps also known as Jack the Smith and Jack of the Lantern, is a mythical character apparently associated with All Hallows Eve. It is common lore that the “jack-o’-lantern” is derived from the character.
As the story goes, several centuries ago amongst the myriad of towns and villages in Ireland, there lived a drunkard known as “Jack the Smith”. Jack was known throughout the land as a deceiver, manipulator and otherwise dreg of society. On a fateful night, the devil overheard the tale of Jack’s evil deeds and silver tongue. Unconvinced (and envious) of the rumors, the devil went to find out for himself whether or not Jack lived up to his vile reputation.
Typical of Jack, he was drunk and wandering through the countryside at night when he came upon a body on his cobblestone path. The body with an eerie grimace on its face turned out to be the Devil. Jack realized somberly this was his end; the devil had finally come to collect his malevolent soul. Jack made a last request: he asked the devil to let him drink ale before he departed to hell. Finding no reason not to acquiesce the request, the devil took Jack to the local pub and supplied him with many alcoholic beverages. Upon quenching his thirst, Jack asked the devil to pay the tab on the ale, to the devil’s surprise. Jack convinced the devil to metamorphose into a silver coin with which to pay the bartender (impressed upon by Jack’s unyielding nefarious tactics). Shrewdly, Jack stuck the now transmogrified devil (coin) into his pocket, which also contained a crucifix. The crucifix’s presence prevented the devil from escaping his form. This coerced the devil to agree to Jack’s demand: in exchange for the devil’s freedom, the devil had to spare Jack’s soul for 10 years.
Ten years later to the date when Jack originally struck his deal, he found himself once again in the devil’s presence. Same as the setting before, Jack happened upon the devil and seemingly accepted it was his time to go to hell for good. As the devil prepared to take him to the underworld, Jack asked if he could have one apple to feed his starving belly. Foolishly the devil once again agreed to this request. As the devil climbed up the branches of a nearby apple tree, Jack surrounded its base with crucifixes. The devil, frustrated at the fact that he been entrapped again, demanded his release. As Jack did before, he demanded that his soul never be taken by the devil into hell. The devil agreed and was set free.
Eventually the drinking and unstable lifestyle took its toll on Jack; he died the way he lived. As Jack’s soul prepared to enter heaven through the gates of St. Peter he was stopped. Jack was told that because of his sinful lifestyle of deceitfulness and drinking, he was not allowed into heaven. The dreary Jack went before the Gates of Hell and begged for commission into underworld. The devil, fulfilling his obligation to Jack, could not take his soul. To warn others, he gave Jack an ember, marking him a denizen of the netherworld. From that day on until eternity’s end, Jack is doomed to roam the world between the planes of good and evil, with only an ember inside a hollowed turnip to light his way.
There used to be a lot of drunkenness and things would get out of hand back in the olden times and then in the 50′ and 60’s kids used to like to do tricks on their neighbors. So in an attempt to solve the problems then and in the 60’s, people starting giving parties to contain the “fun” so to speak. There was games and treats. Why go egg someone, when you could eat delicious treats? Along came “The Great Pumpkin” with Charlie Brown and the rest is history. We have a fun holiday. With spookiness, treats, drinking, and costumes.
Happy Halloween! It’s one of my favorite times of the year. I love dressing up. Come on–I’m a goddess!
Laugh, learn and liven up your taste buds!