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Celebrating Halloween in Ancient Times

October 30, 2017

Celebrating Halloween in Ancient Times

If you see apparitions and trolls all around asking for a treat and frightening each other, it’s Halloween time. What’s more, you also hear scary ghost stories, make bonfires, watch horror films in the cinemas and carve pumpkins.

The truly scary part starts when dreadful clowns appear to do something really threatening. It is a fact that in 2016, the police in numerous regions asked to report about suspicious jokesters because of their evil intentions.  Now, in 2017, when another Steven King story "It" was released, dressing up as a clown to scare children becomes even more widespread.

Besides jokes and sweets, Halloween has much more to offer. This holiday has a rich history that started many centuries ago.

History of Halloween

All Hallows' Eve, nowadays called Halloween, can be traced back to a pre-Christian Celtic celebration held around November 1. It was known as Samhain ("sah-win" – "summer's end" in Gaelic) and it was a yearly feast toward the end of gathering the harvest. People prepared assets for the winter months and brought cattle from the fields. It is also believed that Samhain was a holiday of communicating with the dead.

John Santino, a folklorist, says that Halloween gave ancient people a kind of permission to play with the idea of death. That’s why they took on the appearance of the living dead and embellished front yards with the gravestones.

In any case, as the records about this Celtic feast are vague and partial, we can’t claim that Samhain was particularly devoted to the dead. Moreover, there is no absolutely proven connection between Halloween and Samhain. It might be a coincidence that All Saints' Day and Samhain were celebrated on the same day, influenced each other and created a mixed festival now called Halloween.

Modern traditions of Halloween may go back to "mumming" and "guising," when people wore masks and knocked on every door requesting for food. This custom may likewise be identified with the medieval custom of "souling" in Britain and Ireland. Poor people promised to pray for the dead in an exchange of food on Hallowmas celebrated, also on November 1.

Nowadays, no one takes the "trick" part from "trick-or-treat" expression seriously, but real traps have for quite some time been a piece of the occasion. By the end of the 19-th century, pranks on Halloween were embedded. Only after the 1950s, American and Canadian vandals stopped tipping over toilets, opening ranchers' doors and egging houses on Halloween. That’s why local authorities started to promote “treat” part so actively.

That’s how Halloween customs and traditions turned to be as we know them nowadays. People enjoy wearing costumes, playing “trick-or-treat” and other games.

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