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Halloween is a holiday that has always been soaked in myths, mystery, magic and urban legends. It's celebrated in several countries, but is most popular in the United States and Canada. And, it is probably one of the most misunderstood holidays that is celebrated today.
Over 2,000 years ago, the Celts lived in what is now Ireland, northern France and the United Kingdom. Their new year began on November 1, the day marked the start of the cold winter ahead which was associated with death. On October 31, they celebrated the new years eve with Samhain, which has evolved into our ghoulish Halloween celebrations over the years.
The Celts believed that on this night, boundaries separating the worlds of the living and dead became blurred together and ghosts and spirits of the dead roamed the earth. They believed that these manifestations from the other world caused damage and trouble, but that their presence gave the Druids, or priests, more power to predict the future.
To celebrate Samhain, sacred bonfires were built, crops were burned and sacrificed animals to their Gods. They would adorn themselves in costumes generally made from the skins and heads of animals. Hearth fires were extinguished before the celebration and re-lit from the bonfire to provide protection.
The Celtic territory was conquered by the Romans in 43 A.D. and during their 400 year reign, two Roman festivals were combined with Samhain. Feralia was celebrated at the end of October to commemorate their dead.
The second festival was in honor of Pomona, the goddess of trees and fruit. Pomona's symbol was the apple, which probably explains the tradition practiced today of bobbing for gourmet apples.
Christianity had spread to the Celtic territories by the 800's and the day was designated as All Saints' Day, often called All-hallows Day. Samhain was changed to All-hallows Eve and through the years became simply known as Halloween!
A third holiday was added in 1000 A.D. called All Souls Day, celebrated on November the second. These celebrations were honored in much the same way as Samhain, with bonfires, parades and various types of costumes.
This is the most complete book ever on Halloween, and I think it is perfect of families and individuals alike.
Included are spells for doing Halloween magic. You'll find love spells and protection spells, house blessing spells, prosperity spells and many more. On a serious note, you'll see how there is a long tradition of honoring the departed on this night of the year. You'll be able to perform these rituals, too.
Halloween came to America with European immigrants, although there was very little celebration in colonial times. The holiday became widely popular in the mid 1800's when millions of Irish immigrants came to America. Combining both English and Irish Celtic traditions, Americans began celebrating the holiday and wearing costumes.
The custom of trick or treating, is believed to date back to the parades of All Soul's Day. During the celebration, the poor citizens would beg for food. Many families would hand out pastries, called soul cakes and in return the citizens would promise to pray for their dead relatives. Eventually, children began to visit homes and would often be given food gifts, ale or money!
While the Celts considered the presence of ghosts and spirits on Samhain a good thing, they also didn't want to be recognized. So, when they left their homes at night, they would wear masks in hopes that the spirits would mistake them for spirits or ghosts. And, bowls of food would be placed outside to deter the spirits from entering the house.
The Jack O' Lantern evolved from an Irish myth about Stingy Jack. The story goes that Stingy Jack and the Devil had drinks and of course Stingy Jack didn't want to pay for them. He tricked the Devil into changing into a coin to pay for their drinks and being stingy, decided to keep the coin. He placed the coin in his pocket along with a silver cross and the Devil couldn't change back.
Eventually he decided to free the Devil, but made him promise that he would leave him alone for a year and not claim his soul if he died. When the Devil returned the following year, Jack tricked him into climbing a tree to pick some fruit and carved a cross into the tree trapping the Devil once again! He released the Devil on his word that he wouldn't bother Jack for another ten years.
Not long after that, Stingy Jack died and according to the legend, God wouldn't allow him into heaven. The Devil was mad at Jack for the tricks he'd played on him, but he kept his word and wouldn't claim his soul and let him enter into hell. He sent Stingy Jack off into the night with a burning coal. Jack carved out a turnip and placed the coal inside and he became known as Jack of the Lantern.
Throughout Scotland and Ireland, people started carving scary faces on potatoes and turnips, these lanterns would be placed in windows to scare away any evil spirits including Stingy Jack! When these immigrants came to American, they found that pumpkins were plentiful and made much better Halloween Pumpkin Jack O' Lanterns!
The book traces the contributions of America's immigrants to the holiday, documenting the beliefs each ethnic group has added to the mix. Related recipes, poems, songs, and photos perfectly complement the meticulously documented text. The result is the most educational and entertaining examination of Halloween, its myths, and its truths.
I like most all things vintage and I think old antique Halloween postcards are really cool. I suppose it must have been common in the "old days" for people to mail out Halloween postcards. I don't know anyone who does it today, but I am sure there are still those who do. These days people buy greeting cards, which are similar to postcards, but Halloween greeting cards aren't as popular as they are for other special days and Christmas holiday gift celebrations. In fact, I may even send out my first Halloween greeting cards this year!