Monday, October 29, 2007

Halloween Triva

Since 1995, trick or treating in the town of Sandusky, Ohio, has been against the law for anyone older then 14.
It is very rare for a full moon to occur at the same time as Halloween. It has only occurred in - 1925, 1944, 1955, and 1974. The next time it is said to occur is 31 October, 2020.
The word Halloween appeared in the Dictionary in the 1700s.
Dunking for apples arose from a practice of divining the future. It was believed that if you could hold an apple between your teeth you would have a fulfilling romance with whomever you choose.
According to ancient superstitions, if you stare into a mirror at midnight on Halloween, you'll see your future spouse.
The pumpkin is one of the best sources of Vitamin A.

Although the bounty of nature and the natural change of seasons were important aspects of Samhain, it was also a festival of the supernatural. Samhain was the turning point of the year for a people who believed that even minor "turning points" -- the change from one day to the next, the meeting of sea and shore -- were magical. The turning of the year was the most powerful and sacred of such junctures. The worlds of the living and of the dead were very close to one another at Samhain, the veil between the two at its thinnest. The living could communicate with those who had gone beyond; the dead could visit the living. In Celtic times, the dead were not considered evil or particularly dreaded so much as consulted and honored as ancestral spirits and guardians of the wisdom of the tribe. Celtic priests, the Druids, contacted the dead in order to divine the future and make predictions for the community. In Halloween lore of the last two centuries or so, references are made to "Samhain" as a deity or Celtic "Lord of the Dead." There is no evidence for such a god. The fallacy seems to have arisen in the 1770s before improved translation of Celtic literary work and modern archeology. It can be traced to the writings of a Col. Charles Vallency (who, for some reason, was trying to prove that the Irish originally came from Armenia) and then was later perpetuated by Lady Jane Francesca Wilde (Oscar's mum) in her mid-nineteenth century book Irish Cures, Mystic Charms and Superstitions. It has gone on to be unquestioningly and inaccurately repeated in many sources over the years.

Although possibly later developed as post-Christian mythology, the Celts may have believed in faeries or similar magical creatures. They did not believe in demons or devils, but they may well have had these not-so-nice entities to deal with. Resentful of humans taking over the world, the faerie-folk were often thought to be hostile and dangerous. During the magical time of Samhain the faeries were even more powerful than usual. Humans might be lured astray by faeries. These unfortunates would then be lost in the fairy mounds and trapped forever.
Faeries or their kind weren't the only ones causing mischief. The yearly turning point was also seen as a suspension of ordinary space and time. For order and structure to be maintained for the rest of the year, chaos would reign during Samhain. Humans indulged in cross-gender dressing, tricks, and high jinks. On the practical side, such behavior was an outlet for high spirits before the confining winter came. We know very little of Druidic religious rituals, but we do know Samhain was one of four "Fire Festivals" of the Celts. Hearth fires were extinguished to symbolize the coming "dark half" of the year, then re-lit from Druidic fires to signify the return and continuance of life. Bonfires were also part of this observance.

As with other pre-Christian practices, Samhain was eventually absorbed by the Church. In AD 609 or 610, May 13 was designated as a day to honor the Virgin Mary and the martyred saints. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III (731-741 then fixed November 1 as the anniversary for all saints (including the martyrs). October 31 became All Hallows' Eve [Hallowmas or Halloween], the evening before All Hallows Day [All Saints Day] on November 1. (The word "hallow" was used in the Middle ages as a synonym for "saint.") Gregory IV (827-844) extended the celebration of All Hallows Day to the entire Church.
The old beliefs did not die out so easily and just honoring saints was not enough to replace the notion of a time of year when the dead could travel the earth. A more abstract holiday commemorating all the faithful departed on November 2 began to be marked as early as the ninth century. although Odilo, abbot of Cluny (d. 1048) actually instituted the date. By the end of the thirteenth century, it was accepted by the entire Church.
Not only did the Church give the holiday its popular name, it also sanctified the custom of remembering the dead on the eve on November 1. Other pagan traditions and religious practices were adapted by the Church and re adapted by the people. "Soul cakes" were baked and given to the town's poor in exchange for their prayers for the dead. Eventually young men and boys went "souling" from house to house, singing and asking for food, ale and money rather than cakes. The church encouraged parishioners to dress as saints, angels and devils as part of All Saints Day. Spirits of the dead and the supernatural, now associated with evil and the devil, became something to fear. Gifts of food and drink once meant to welcome the dead were now offered to keep them away. Bonfires were now lit to frighten the devil.
On October 31, 1517 Martin Luther, intending to stir debate, posted his Ninety-five Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church. (An occasion still marked in Lutheran churches on Reformation Sunday.) The religious reformation he sparked eventually did away with the celebration of Halloween for many Europeans. Reformation Protestants did away with the observance of saints' days and without the "hallows" one can not have All Hallows' Eve.
The English, however, managed to preserve some of the secular traditions of the holiday with Guy Fawkes Day. (In 1605 a group English Roman Catholics conspired to blow up Parliament, King James I, and his heir on November 5. They evidently hoped that in the confusion following, the English Catholics could take over the country. What came to be known as the Gunpowder Plot was foiled and in January 1606 Parliament established November 5 as a day of public thanksgiving. The day became known as Guy Fawkes Day for a conspirator who was arrested and, under torture, revealed the names of the other plotters.) Guy Fawkes Day borrowed a great many of the traditions used to mark Halloween that had fallen just six days before. Bonfires, pranks, begging, and dressing in costume became part of the occasion. In some parts of England, the festivities were virulently anti-Catholic.