A long time ago, before Christianity, before Christmas, the western world was as pagan as could be. They had hundreds of gods, who sometimes had to be appeased with blood sacrifices no less. Their religion was Druidism, and it held particular sway among the Celts - the people of Ireland, Britain and northern Europe.
Though the gods of the Celts have been ignored for centuries now, one particular tradition survived the coming of Christianity and is today one of the most celebrated festivals in Europe and America after Xmas. We call it Halloween and associate it with fun and partying. But in those days, it was a solemn affair honouring the dead.
The Celts called it Samhain ( pronounced as Sahween) on October 31 which marked the end of Summer and the beginning of winter on November 1. They believed that during this time, the division between our world and the realm of spirits lie open - enabling the souls of the dead and other supernatural beings to walk the earth.
Besides the souls of their departed relatives, other more scarier creatures were also free to roam about on the night of Samhain. So people decided that dressing up as a witch, vampire or some demonic being or other, would enable them to blend in. Strange huh? Here in the east, dressing up as a Pontianak (female vampire) for instance, would be seen as an invitation instead........
People would place plates of delicious food or treats on their doorsteps to appease the hunger of wandering spirits and placate them, so they would not cause any harm to them or their property. Kinda like the Hungry Ghost Festival no?
The Jack O' Lantern
|My plastic pumpkin from Watsons. Gripevine pic.|
No Halloween celebration is complete without Jack's devilish grin right? This lantern is the ancient symbol of a damned soul. It was originally carved out of turnips or beets. However when the Irish started migrating to America, they found scarce turnips to carve into Jack O' Lanterns. But there were plenty of pumpkins to be found. The rest is history of course.
This post marks the end of my series of articles on all things Halloween. To those who took time out to read my ramblings, Thank you!! Happy Halloween 2011 folks, hope the night to come is memorable, even if the 'Strange' folk don't pay you a visit..........