Hallow een? Hall of ween? Hallo ween?
How did Halloween come to be? The etymology of the name? What does the holiday represent, actually, besides candy and pumpkins and horror movies?
To give you an answer to these questions, we at Hipper have done our research.
Once again, it is upon us: every year, on the 31st October, a day before All Saints Day. Halloween…
People dress up, watch scary movies, light candles in pumpkins, go trick ‘n’ treating, and spend time with their loved ones.
Okay, first things first.
What is Halloween?
It is believed that Halloween first came to be over 2000 years ago, in Ireland. The Celts had a very specific calendar, quite unusual according to modern timekeeping standards. Their New Year began on the 1st November, and they split their year into summer, or the light half of the year, and winter, the dark half.
Therefore they thought the 31st October was the last day of summer, innocence and warm nights soon are gone, with only the dark, cold (and in those times often fatal) winter ahead. It makes perfect sense why someone would celebrate something like this 2 millennia ago, right? It was a sort of hey, we’ve made it this far, let us stay strong and combine our forces and make it through the winter. And, what do you know… it stuck.
The name Halloween came to be on an ancient summer festival called Samhain, meaning ‘the end of summer.’ Before that, it was known as All Hallows Eve, which means the evening before All Saints Day (1st November). Samhain was celebrated during the night on the 31st October. The Celts believed that it was possible for them to bring their dead back to life. Supposedly, the link between the living and the dead was weakened that night, which meant they could allow the spirits of their ancestors to come back to Earth.
They also thought that all this tinkering with the dead could bring back evil spirits as well, which might be angry enough to damage their homes, haunt them, and wreak general havoc on their lives.
Celt priests were known as Druids. In order to banish evil spirits, they would build large bonfires which symbolized the return of Sun at the end of winter, and offer sacrifices to the gods in the form of fruit, meat, and other food, animals, and even humans. The villagers gathered around the fire and exchanged stories and life experiences, and after the festivities ended, they’d relight the fire in order to help them during the harsh winters. Trick ‘n’ treating is another custom from the early times, when villagers left plates of their finest foods to calm the evil spirits. Naturally, they were afraid that the spirits would destroy their crops and homes – which, in those days, meant death. In many parts of the UK, 31st October is known as the night of shenanigans. On that night, people put on costumes and painted their face with soot in order to move around freely – and, naturally, avoid being possessed by the spirits. You know, just a regular ol’ Wednesday night in the UK.
On the 31st October, the Celts put on outfits belonging to the opposite sex, moved cattle from one field to another, removed doors from their fences, and knocked on their neighbors’ doors looking for presents and threatening with pranks. Many of these customs were moved to the US in the 19th century when over a million Irish, English and Scottish were forced to emigrate because of hunger. The custom of putting on costumes and trick ‘n’ treating was developed there.
If you asked people around you what was the most recognizable symbol of Halloween – they’d give you a unanimous answer. The pumpkin. A carved out pumpkin with a candle inside is called Jack O’ Lantern. However, few people know how it got the name.
The Hipper crew does.
The name originates from a legend saying that a man named Jack made a treaty with the Devil. Historians also think that people used to beat in the beginning, not pumpkins. The tradition changed when Irish immigrants came to America, only to realize that pumpkins are much more practical and widespread than beat.
Today, in the 21st century, Halloween is celebrated differently around the world. To each country their own – literally.
Cultural differences played the biggest part in differentiating the Halloween celebrations throughout the world. For example, the Germans love masquerading because it reminds them of Hansel and Gretel fairy tales. Also, they hide their knives on Halloween. Why? So they don’t get hurt. Practical people from day one, right? French people enjoy putting on costumes and going into the city to party. In France, clubs, bars, and restaurants are filled to the brim on Halloween. It is more of a commercial holiday in France than a celebration of ghosts, goonies, and spirits.
In recent years, Halloween has seen a popularity surge in Great Britain. People organize house parties and attend various organized events throughout the city. Also (in the face of an economic crisis), trick ‘n’ treating is becoming more and more popular. However, Halloween has also been linked to increasing crime rates, such as petty theft, burglary, vandalism. You know, it’s a night when you can be whatever you want to be – so why not be a burglar?
So this is it, a short history of how Halloween came to be. It is an immensely fun, joyous holiday that will melt the hearts even of those most unwilling to participate. There is a certain undeniable charm in it, as the nights get longer and the day shortens, and new and cozy smells of autumn fill the air…
We know one thing-
-the Hipper crew loves Halloween. You should too.
Happy Halloween 2018, and many more to come!