Monday, 31 October 2011

So, where did Halloween come from?

As it's Halloween today (cue spooky music, creaking doors, and Vincent Price's cackle, which never fails to send shivers down my spine), I thought I'd delve into a bit of its history.

The word, Halloween, comes from a mash-up of All-Hallows-Even (evening) (first use recorded way back in 1556) and the name of Celtic festival, Samhain (pronounced sow-een, whatever the actors on "True Blood" call it).

Samhain marked the end of the harvest, the end of the lighter half of the year, and the beginning of some seriously long dark nights. It was also known as a festival dedicated to the dead, and some people still set a place for the dead at the Samhain feast.

The Gaelic custom of wearing a mask and costumes was often an attempt to placate evil spirits. Another method of warding off evil were the candle lanterns. Large turnips were hollowed out, carved with faces, and placed in the window to frighten away the spirits.

In Scotland and Ireland, guising (dressing in costume) is a Halloween custom recorded as far back as  1895 where masqueraders in disguise visited homes to be rewarded with cake, fruit, and money (sounds good to me!).

So, now you're all nice and knowledgeable about where our Halloween name and customs came from, I hope you have a wonderful spookfest this evening. I think I'll be looking out my (admittedly tiny) collection of scary films. If you hear blood-curdling screams, that'll be me, hiding behind a cushion. Did I mention I'm useless with horror films?

Image: zirconicusso /


Bish Denham said...

Nice little bit of history here. And just recently, like in the past week or so, I heard/read about turnip carving for the firts time.

C D Meetens said...

Thanks. Yes, the history about the turnip carving was new to me too.

AmieSalmon said...

I was actually wondering about this today, and now my questions have been answered!
Happy Halloween, I'll be working, but I hope that will keep me safe from being scared! (Hopeful thinking? Someones going to make me jump now aren't they.)

Joshua said...

I love stuff like this. Thanks for sharing. Also, really glad I'm not the only one that knows the True Blood people had it wrong.

Kelley said...

Happy Halloween back atcha :). I like knowing the history of things :)

Christine Rains said...

Happy Halloween! I love a little trivia.

Judie said...

Happy Halloween - fun trivia facts.

C D Meetens said...

Amie: Glad I answered some questions :).

Joshua: Me too! The reasons behind certain sayings or customs tend to fascinate me. And, yay, for someone else knowing "True Blood" got the pronunciation wrong!

Kelley: Sometimes history can be fun... even if it took my high school history teacher a few years to make me believe that ;).

Christine: Hope the trivia was interesting :).

Judie: Oh, I'm full of useless facts ;).

Aubrie said...

Oh yes, AMC has a horror movie marathon. I didn't know they made so many Halloween movies until this past weekend, when my husband made me watch all of them.

Happy Halloween to you, too! I enjoyed reading about the origins.

LynNerd said...

I've heard about this history of Halloween before and it's still fascinating to read. I'm a big scaredy cat when it comes to horror films. Eeek! I hope you had a wonderful Halloween.

C D Meetens said...

Aubrie: What a lovely husband you have ;). I settled for the less scary, more darkly amusing, "Corpse Bride". Yes, I'm a wuss *sigh*.

Lyn: I'm glad I'm not alone in the "scared of horror films" club :).

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