Below is a defence of
Halloween, all pictures represent characters I have chosen as
targets for fancy dress.
If you had lived in a
remote jungle village all your life and were first presented with a
calendar would it not be odd to you that the day after the shortest
day of the year and New Year’s Day were not one in the same?
There is an online argument between the
New Year, The Passover as to who is the oldest holiday/festival
Passover dates back to between 2,000 and 1,400 bc depending on who
you believe. It refers to the Jewish exodus from Egypt
after the ten plagues were sent by God to punish the Egyptians.
But nowhere in this particular argument was there a mention
of the amazing structure at Newgrange, Co. Meath where the ancient
Irish, from around 5,000 BC, gathered and piled a massive amount of
rocks to form a tomb. They designed it so that for most of the year
it is dark except for the days around the winter solstice (21st
December) when the low sunlight flows into the chamber.
This pre-dates any
calendar that marks 31st of December as the
last day of the year. Nevertheless, it was the New Year for
my Irish Ancestors. They celebrated the lengthening of the days
with a ceremony as the light flooded into the tomb, a sign to them
that the days were growing in length again. This is reflected now
when twenty or so lucky people get to see the lighting up of the
tomb in person very year.
Before the Romans made
their way across Europe, Celtic tribes in Ireland, Britain and
France celebrated Samhain (pronounced sow-on) which was the
beginning of their New Year. This landed on the
1st of November when through the death of
the summer and the beginning of the winter was a time when the
lines were blurred between the living and the dead. Crop failures
were blamed on the interference of the spirits. The Irish Druids
built communal bonfires to ward away spirits of the dead.
Every year at Samhain people would put out their own fires and join
the Druids. Together they burned sacrificial crops to the many of
Celtic gods. The early Irish worshipped pagan Gods and believed in
the spirit world. Due to their superstitious nature they would wear
animal skin costumes to hide from the spirits they believed were
walking among them. Before the ceremony ended they thrust their
torches into the Druids fires and returned home to houses and once
again brought flame to their own extinguished hearths.
The Holy Roman Empire
subsumed many Celtic traditions. Elements of Samhain were mixed
with with a Roman festival involving fruit and the Christian
celebration of martyrs and souls which were all moved to All Souls
Day. So the relics of Samhain were transferred to the day before,
All Hallows Eve. The Roman festival may have lived on in the
tradition of ‘bobbing for apples’ and Samhain lives on in the
tradition of dressing up in costumes.
So where did Samhain come
Maybe when the
Romans imposed their calender the dates became skewed? Could it be
that those ancient tribes who built Newgrange and lit fires and
built the tombs to celebrate their dead were actually celebrating
their form of Samhain, that would predate The Passover by at least