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The History Of Halloween

Posted by LOTGK on October 10, 2008

St. Patrick’s Day is a very popular Irish holiday celebrated with parades, dances, singing, bagpipes, and plenty of social gatherings at the favorite watering holes across the nation to hoist a few pints of Guinness beer. But did you know that St. Patrick’s Day is not the most popular Irish holiday in the states? Halloween is!

The word Halloween, derived from All Hollows Eve and All Saints Day, is a Catholic holy day honoring the saints on November 1st. But in Ireland, it was called Samhain, and the Celtic Druids celebrated October 31st, which was the last day of Summer to them, with a huge festival and feast. The feast was intended to ward off evil spirits from coming down from the hills during their harvest and stealing and poisoning the crop.

Legend has it that evil spirits would wait until nightfall during harvest until the villagers retired to their huts for the evening and then came down the mountain and stole and destroyed the crop leaving the village at the mercy of the spirits to survive through the Winter.

The villagers adopted a harvest ritual to repel the evil spirits so they would never again enter their village during harvest. On October 31st, the villagers would extinguish the fires lit in their homes, hollow out large ghords, and then dress themselves as evil spirits. The villagers would then carve evil faces and sayings in the ghords, light them on fire and place them at the base of their village. Another ghord would be left on each villagers door step to block the spirits from entering their home.

The villagers would then go door to door chanting prayers to ward off the evil spirits making as much noise as they could for the rest of the evening. A great feast would be the last event as the villagers would gather and pass out many varieties of food and drink to share with one another.

This practice went on for centuries and only when the Irish emigrated to the United States in the 1840’s during the great potato famine, did Halloween become popular and become an American tradition. Today, kids dress up as evil spirits, go house to house yelling trick or treat, as Jack O Lanterns adorn many homes door steps. Just as the druids did so many, many years ago.

And you thought you only celebrated one Irish holiday.

Happy Halloween – Samhain

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One Response to “The History Of Halloween”

  1. Soup Cop Jean said

    I knew that. But all saints day is November 1st, not Halloween day.

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