October 31 is All Hallow’s Eve, the day before November 1 which is All Saints Day, a very sacred day in the tradition of the Catholic Church. So where did Halloween come from? About 3,500 B.C., the Celts, Gauls and other Germanic tribes of Northern and Western Europe developed into agrarian societies with farming and crop cultivation as their principle food sources. The summer and winter solstices and vernal and autumnal equinox were extremely important in the planning of their year, telling them when to plant, how much time was left until harvest and when should it be completed. The day of final harvest was a day of celebration. It also marked the end of their year, the death of summer and warm weather and preparations for the snows of winter. Samhain was the death of summer and the night of the dead. It was believed that on that night, which was October 31, the spirits of all those who had died the previous year would walk the earth one final time before their journey to the nether regions, some to exact vengeance on their living enemies. It was also a time when demons, ghouls, and evil entities rose from the dark pits of the underworld to wreak havoc upon the unwary. There were no pumpkins in Europe at this time so some folks would hollow out gourds and onions and carve scary faces on them to frighten off the evil spirits. They would also leave food and baked items out to bribe the things that go bump in the night to leave their huts in peace. Sacrifices were also made to appease the old gods and gain their favor for their coming new year. There is no truth to the story that children or young virgins were used in the ceremonies. Ram, deer, lambs, pigs. and cattle were used.
When Christianity took hold in medieval Europe, the Church attempted to incorporate many of the old pagan rituals into holy rites. All Saints Day was created to honor all the saints and martyrs with feasting and celebration. Samhain became All Hallows Eve, the night when Saturn and all the evils of the earth were banished for one day to purify it for the holy celebration that came at the dawn. Samhain is still celebrated by modern day Druids at Stonehenge and other sites on October 31, so it is still alive in the traditions of some of us. So with that I will wish you a very safe and enjoyable Samhain!
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