Samhain (A History of Halloween)

arianna-2012 Uncategorized 1 Comment

Happy Halloween everyone!!!

This year, I am taking a class called “Ghost Stories.” Yes, there is a class at USC about ghosts. The class fulfills one of my general education requirements (category 5), and is also a lot of fun. My professor is very knowledgeable and the class is very interesting. Because it is Halloween, I feel the need talk a little about what I have learned in class. Thus, I am going to talk a little bit about the history of Halloween.

Halloween takes place on the ancient Celtic New Year, at the end of harvest time. The whole month of November was known as Samhain, thus the last day of October was “Oihe Samhain” or the eve of Samhain. It was thought that during this month, spirits of the dead walked the earth. Ancient burial grounds, like the one in the picture below, opened up (it was thought), and the dead walked the realm of the living. People dressed up and went from house to house, a tradition knowing as mumming, and most likely where we get our current tradition of trick-or-treating from. It was important to leave food out for the hungry spirits. Bonfires were also popular during the traditional Samhain in order to burn the extra “stuff” gathered from harvest and the end of the year.

Picture 2Stones such as this were known as Megaliths or literally “big stone”. The most famous is probably Stonehenge.

When Pope Gregory took over these ancient peoples, he did not try to rid them of their holidays, but instead he chose to Christianize them. November first was All Saint’s Day, so October 1st was made a holiday as well. The name comes from All Hallows Eve (Hallow means Saint)! The name was subsequently shortened to Halloween. The church looked at the spirit ideas as generally evil, and that is where we get the spooky evil idea of Halloween.

One of the funniest things I learned was the story of the jack-o-lantern, which I had never heard before. Supposedly, a blacksmith named Jack was not allowed into heaven nor was he allowed into hell. He filled a gourd with glowing coals to light his way. Thus, when we carve a face in the pumpkin, it is the face of Jack.

For more info about Samhain, check out: http://www.newgrange.com/samhain.htm

No matter what you do this Halloween, I hope you have fun. I find it interesting to learn about why we do things, such as go trick-or-treating or carve pumpkins. I have never really thought about these things, and this class is not only interesting but also a way for me to get away from all the engineering for a couple of hours a week and learn some things that I would not have had the opportunity to in my engineering classes.

Listening to: Regina Spektor Radio on Pandora

Watching: Even Stevens Halloween Episode

Reading: Rocket Boys

=)  arianna

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