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Unless you have been living under a rock, we have all heard of Halloween. Whether it’s dressing up as ghostly creatures, going to themed parties or events, carving faces into vegetables, apple bobbing or simply just watching scary movies, Halloween is a hugely celebrated time of year all over the world.
Nowadays, Halloween has become a huge commercial event but its origins date back thousands of years to pagan times. It can be traced back all the way to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. In the Pre-Christian Celtic year, Samhain marked the end of the summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter. The festival symbolised the boundary between the world of the living and the world of the dead and the Celts believed that on the night of the 31st October, ghosts of their dead would revisit the mortal world. Large bon fires were lit in each village to ward off any evil spirits that were at large.
When the Romans invaded in 43 AD, they conquered much of the Celtic tribal lands and through their occupation and rule, they assimilated many of their own celebrations into the existing Celtic traditions. One such example may help to explain the current Halloween tradition of “bobbing” for apples as the Roman goddess of fruit and trees was know as Pomona and her symbol was the apple.
As the Romans moved out of Britain in the early 5th century, new conquerors moved in, in the form of the Saxons. They raided England’s South and East coasts and in the years that followed, German migrants arrived, forcing the Celtic tribes to move to the northern and western extremes of Britain.
Christianity arrived in Britain in the decades that followed which saw Christian festivals begin to be celebrated. One of which was “All Hallows’ Day” also known as “All Saints Day” which was a day to remember those who had died for their beliefs.
Originally celebrated on 13th May, it was Pope Gregory who had the date of the All Hallows’ feast moved to 1st November sometime in the 8th century. It is thought that in doing so, he was attempting to replace or assimilate the Celtic Samhain festival of the dead with a related but church approved celebration.
The night or evening of Samhain therefore became known as All-hallows-even then Hallow Eve, still later Hallowe’en and then of course Halloween. A special time of the year when many believe that the spirit world can make contact with the physical world, a night when magic is at its most potent.
However, you wish to get involved with the festival, we hope that you have a very spooky Halloween!
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