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The origin of Halloween

Trick or Treating? Both, really: a few tricks to ward off the dead and a great deal on Celtic heritage.

And it is that the famous Halloween party comes from the Celtic festival of Samhain or Samain , which celebrated the end of the agricultural year at the beginning of November. It was time to give thanks for the crops that withdrew after the summer, as well as embrace the other world that merged with ours: that of the spirits and beasts from the other side, since the ancient Celts believed that the line that separated both worlds was drawn. narrowed during that day. This meant that both good and evil spirits could cross the border, and one had to prepare to receive both the souls of the ancestors and possible evil beings.

When Christianity spread, the Catholic Church chose November 1 to celebrate All Saints' Day , making it coincide with Samhain to attract the faithful who still followed this tradition. In this way, integrating pagan festivals into their calendar, they managed to get everyone to gradually follow their dictates but without missing the new god. In English this day was called All Holy (all Saints), and both Irish and Scottish maintained their ancestral custom of also celebrating the eve of this day, what they called All Hallow's Eve (All Saints' Eve), a Scottish expression that it ended up becoming “ Halloween ”. Not in vain were these, especially the Irish, who brought the tradition to North America during their emigrations.

This celebration is also known as "Halloween Night", because during what is now Halloween, the straw was burned to make big bonfires and rituals to repel witchcraft and diseases. However, these fires were the only ones that used to be lit and always outside, since evil spirits were also around that night, the homes were not lit with fireplaces or candles to avoid heating the houses, as these beings hated the cold. , ironic as it may seem. Thus, the villagers made sure to drive them away. Although they also had other tricks, since they used hideous costumes and masks to confuse them, trying to hide their identity or at least, resembling another malevolent being to avoid being disturbed. Normally these clothes were in funereal colors so as not to attract attention. Does all this ring a bell? Indeed… Halloween costumes. If we look at it from this point, the Carnival costumes would also be valid for this day if they really manage to make you pass as something or someone that you are not. Regarding the souls of the ancestors, they were received in the opposite way: they were invited and honored with culinary offerings, since they believed that they would return in their human form for a few hours.

Despite everything, Halloween did not manage to become international until the 1980s, when the famous horror film “Halloween” by John Carpenter was released, popularizing this celebration and giving it an excessively macabre air. Even so, the US continues to be the place where it is celebrated the most.

Even so, we deserve to know what is behind some of the symbols on the most gothic night of the year

The squash was originally a turnip , but was substituted as they were not as plentiful and much more difficult to work with. Originally it is called a Jack-o'-lantern , since it comes from an Irish folk legend. In his best known version, Jack was a cunning and mischievous farmer who managed to trick the Devil when he wanted to take his soul. He lied to her into climbing a tree and then carved a cross into the trunk so she couldn't climb down. He only allowed him down when he made him promise not to steal his soul. When Jack passed away, he couldn't get into Heaven because of his many sins, but he couldn't get into Hell either because he played with the Devil, so he threw a flame from Hell that never went out at him, so that his spirit would use that light to find a place to go Since then, Jack of the Lantern (Jack the lantern) wanders through Eternity with that kind of candle made of a carved turnip and inside, the infinite flame. The expressions that are carved into its successors, the pumpkins, may either imitate poor Jack's appearance or may be trying to scare away the forces of evil... no one knows for sure.

The "trick or treat" ("mischief or sweet" in some areas), for its part, has its origin in another myth about a demon that went around the houses saying this phrase, so it was always better to make a deal with him . However, it is more interesting to delve into another lesser-known supposed origin: souling . This was a practice dating back to 9th century Europe that consisted of offering cakes to beggars so that they would pray for the souls of their benefactors. The more prayers, the faster and easier the soul accessed Heaven. Other legends state that this also comes from the custom of going around the houses asking for materials to stoke the fire in the bonfires. Although I guess this hasn't been as ingrained as pranks or candy apples. The latter, along with other sweets, have become bait for various crimes, since sometimes they have poisoned themselves to kill people, giving rise to urban legends that have little to do with the meaning of this festival. It would be too much to ask that criminals not find it amusing to commit misdeeds on a night like this.

By @mercedesfisteus

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