Saturday, 31 October 2009

Trick or ... Samhain

Trick or ... Samhain?

Halloween. Such a frightening holiday. Where's the romance when one is being asked to produce a trick or prepare for a treat? I thought I'd take a look at this fun, yet gholish time of year.

Is halloween really that ghoulish?

Halloween has its roots in Celtic Ireland. Over 2000 years ago, the Celts were in firm control of the Irish lands. Typically, 1 November was the start of their New Year. The summer was ending, the harvest was over and the cold winter was marching in. The Celts believed on the night before the new year the boundary between the dead and the living worlds were blurred. The dead returned to earch damaging crops and wreaking havoc. The Celts called this night Samhain. (prounouced Sow-in)

They raised bonfires and wore costumes to scare away the dead, burning crops and animals in sacrfice to the Celtic gods.

In 43 AD., Rome had influence in the Celt lands, merging two of their holidays into the festival, "Feralia," and "Ponoma." In Feralia, they celebrated the dead and Ponoma was the goddess of fruit and trees.

In the 800's Christianity began to show it's influence. 1 NOV was All Saint's Day and was called Allhallowmas (from the middle english) and the day before was known as Allhallowmas eve or soon... Halloween.

As early as 1911, Halloween was written about in American papers as we know in in America. I was curious to discover that England did away with Halloween during Henry VIII's reformation. Do any of our British authors or readers care to weigh in? I'd be curious to know if that's the case.

As for Jack 'o Lantern? After playing a couple of tricks on the devil, the devil got mad at him and refused to let Jack into hell, leaving Jack with only a burning coal to light his way on early. Jack put his coal in a turnip and it acted as a lantern. The Irish called him "Jack of the lantern" but he soon became Jack 'o Lantern. The Irish didn't find pumpkins until they immigrated to America.

Have a fun and safe halloween everyone!


  1. I've done research on Halloween before, especially when writing ghost stories heavily steeped in tradition or set 100 years ago :-) I love the mystery and the superstition surrounding it and it makes for an excellent backdrop for shivery stories. :-)

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Great background information about Halloween - thanks, Steph! Hope your boys enjoyed dressing up last night for the big night.

  3. Sandra, I agree - I think a writer can tap into a lot of potential with Samhain, Feralia, and Ponoma.

    Thanks, Diane. The boys had a blast. They pooped out and we didn't get to finish the neighborhood. haha.


  4. From Sue Perkins, DB Author in New Zealand: Halloween in England - I'm a bit out of touch with that as I haven't
    lived there for over 20 years and I've never been to Australia - Barri could
    probably tell you about that country's celebrations. But New Zealand - now
    I can talk about that. The kids come round for trick of treating like in
    America, some of them take great pains with their costumes, others just slap
    any old thing on. It's usually the pre-teens and up toabout 15 year olds,
    the older kids don't bother. One of the mums tends to be in the car outside
    the gate watching their little ones to make sure they're safe.

    This year the kids went round the previous week and left a note in the
    letterboxes with a ribbon attached. They asked you to stick the ribbon on
    your letterbox if you were happy for the kids to call, of course we did.
    Pumpkins tend to be more the university students who love to muck about and
    have Halloween parties (at least my daughter did when she was at uni).
    They're the ones who go for the weird and wonderful costumes with the scary
    decorations and pumpkins.