Happy Halloween !!

Through the ages, various supernatural entities , including fairies and witches came to be associated with Halloween, and more than a century ago in Ireland, the event was said to be a time when spirits of the dead could return to their old haunting grounds.Though few people realize it as they're slapping creepy holiday address labels onto their scary party invitations and carving jack-o'-lanterns to look like bats or witches, the Halloween we celebrate today is a curious combination of the old and the new. 

Its roots are ancient, beginning with traditions celebrated by the pre-Christian Celts who once inhabited the British Isles. Halloween, also known as All Hallows' Eve, can be traced back about 2,000 years to a pre-Christian Celtic festival held around Nov. 1 called Samhain (pronounced "sah-win"), which means "summer's end" in Gaelic, according to the Indo-European Etymological Dictionaries. Because ancient records are sparse and fragmentary, the exact nature of Samhain is not fully understood, but it was an annual communal meeting at the end of the harvest year, a time to gather resources for the winter months and bring animals back from the pastures. Samhain is also thought to have been a time of communing with the dead, according to folklorist John Santino. Back then, it mostly involved eating a lot, cleaning the household, extinguishing the hearth fires and restarting them in a gesture of renewal, commemorating those who had passed away during the year, and dancing around a communal bonfire. 
Many Wiccan groups still practice these types of celebration rituals today during Samhain festivals. Some evangelical Christians have expressed concern that Halloween is somehow satanic because of its roots in pagan ritual. However, ancient Celts did not worship anything resembling the Christian devil and had no concept of it. While many Wiccans do refer to themselves as "witches", they do NOT worship the Devil or any other evil deity for that matter. The vast majority of Wiccan practices can be characterized by or expressing goodwill or kindly feelings which they derive from nature oriented practices derived from pre-Christian religions. 
The history of Halloween we know today is actually a Christian creation. It all started in the 800s, when the Catholic Church merged two existing Roman festivals called Feralia and Pomona's Day with Samhain, in a successful attempt to replace all three. Pomona's Day was originally a harvest festival in honor of the Roman goddess of fruits and trees and Feralia was a day for mourning and remembering the dead.
Christians began celebrating All Saints Day on November 1, with observances beginning at sunset the night before. Among other things, people dressed in costumes as Christian saints to scare away evil spirits, and then went door-to-door, begging for food. Sound familiar? Later on All Soul's Day (a holiday commemorating the dead who were not saints) was added to the mix on November 2. Celebrants took to going from house to house asking for little soul cakes (currant buns) in exchange for praying for the souls of a household's dead. By 1500 AD, All Saints and All Soul's Days had evolved into Hallow Time (October 31-November 2), with most of the celebrations occurring the night before All Hallows Day  on All Hallows Eve. 

It wasn't long before "All Hallows Eve" evolved into "Hallowe'en." So every October, carved pumpkins peer out from porches and doorsteps in the United States and other parts of the world.Gourd-like orange fruits inscribed with ghoulish faces and illuminated by candles are a sure sign of the Halloween season. The practice of decorating “jack-o’-lanterns” the name comes from an Irish folktale about a man named Stingy Jack. 

The Legend of “Stingy Jack”

According to the story, Stingy Jack invited the Devil to have a drink with him. True to his name, Stingy Jack didn’t want to pay for his drink, so he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin that Jack could use to buy their drinks. Once the Devil did so, Jack decided to keep the money and put it into his pocket next to a silver cross, which prevented the Devil from changing back into his original form. Jack eventually freed the Devil, under the condition that he would not bother Jack for one year and that, should Jack die, he would not claim his soul. The next year, Jack again tricked the Devil into climbing into a tree to pick a piece of fruit. While he was up in the tree, Jack carved a sign of the cross into the tree’s bark so that the Devil could not come down until the Devil promised Jack not to bother him for ten more years. Soon after, Jack died. As the legend goes, God would not allow such an unsavory figure into heaven. The Devil, upset by the trick Jack had played on him and keeping his word not to claim his soul, would not allow Jack into hell. He sent Jack off into the dark night with only a burning coal to light his way. Jack put the coal into a carved-out pumpkin and has been roaming the Earth with ever since. The Irish began to refer to this ghostly figure as “Jack of the Lantern,” and then, simply “Jack O’Lantern.” In Ireland and Scotland, people began to make their own versions of Jack’s lanterns by carving scary faces into turnips or potatoes and placing them into windows or near doors to frighten away Stingy Jack and other wandering evil spirits. In England, large beets are used. Immigrants from these countries brought the jack o’lantern tradition with them when they came to the United States. They soon found that pumpkins, a fruit native to America, make perfect jack-o’-lanterns.
Tricks and games
These days, the "trick" part of the phrase "trick or treat" is mostly an empty threat, but pranks have long been a part of the holiday. By the late 1800s, the tradition of playing tricks was well established.
 In the United States and Canada, the pranks included tipping over outhouses, opening farmers' gates and egging houses. But by the 1920s and '30s, the celebrations more closely resembled an unruly block party, and the acts of vandalism got more serious. Some people believe that because pranking was starting to get dangerous and out of hand, parents and town leaders began to encourage dressing up and trick-or-treating as a safe alternative to doing pranks. People began dressing up as ghosts or gouls. It became fashionable, as the holiday became more widespread and more commercialized and with the arrival of mass-manufactured costumes, the selection of disguises for kids and adults greatly expanded beyond monsters to include everything from superheroes to princesses to crooked politicians, and witches...

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