Halloween is upon us :).The origins of the celebration date back hundreds of years ago to the Druid festival of Samhain, Lord of the Dead and Prince of Darkness, who, according to Celtic belief, gathered up the souls of all those who died during the year to present them to Druid Heaven on October 31st.
The Druid New Year began on November 1st, marking the beginning of winter and the reign of the Lord of Death. The Druids called upon supernatural forces to placate the evil spirits, and it is from that tradition that modern Halloween gets the paraphernalia of ghosts, goblins, witches, skeletons, cats, masks and bonfires.
As Christianity replaced the pagan religions, the church set aside November 1st to honor all saints (all-hallows) and called it All Hallows’ Day. The evening before November 1st became All Hallows’ Even, later shortened to Halloween.
The jack-o-lantern, most typical of Halloween symbols began with the Irish. According to legend, a man named Jack, who was kept out of Heaven because he was stingy and expelled from Hell for playing tricks on the Devil, was condemned to walk the earth forever carrying a lantern to light his way. In Ireland the jack-o-lanterns were made by hollowing out large potatoes or turnips. During the 1840s, the Irish took their ways and celebrations to the States and pumpkins started being used instead of turnips, due to practical reasons. A candle burning inside makes the merry face of the “Trick or Treat goer” visible from far away on a dark night and the pulp makes delicious pumpkin pie.The lantern was also used to frighten away roaming spirits by those who walked out into the night. Another meaning is that in the darkness, light continues hidden in the tubers, seeds, dormant under the earth but still glowing, like the candle in the pumpkin.
For the Celts, Samhaim was also the start of the story-telling season by candlelight.
Most times all Christian celebrations retain a little from a heathen past, because in the old times the transition toward Christianity had been swifter on condition the well known patterns of pagan ways were preserved.