Dates and Origins of Halloween

Happy Halloween Little Ghost
Happy Halloween Little Ghost (aotaro / CC-by)

Halloween Dates in 2017, 2018 and 2019

Halloween is celebrated at the following dates:

  • Tuesday, October 31st 2017
  • Wednesday, October 31st 2018
  • Thursday, October 31st 2019

Halloween happens annually on October 31.

Celebration

On Halloween, children and their parents go Trick-or-Treating. Children dress up in costumes and knock on neighbors' doors. When the door opens, they yell "Trick-or-Treat" and the homeowner gives them candy or other prizes. Halloween is also marked by costume parties, bobbing for apples, horror stories and going to haunted house attractions. Despite religious roots, Halloween in the United State is generally a secular holiday.

Origin

Halloween is a contraction of the western Christian feast of All Hallows' Day that starts off the three-day observance of Allhallowtide2. This is a time for remembering the dead, especially saints and martyrs1.

It is arguable whether Halloween has pagan roots in the Gaelic festival of Samhain, where Celtics marked the end of the harvest, though most historians recognize at least some connection1. Halloween did not arrive in America until the arrival of Irish immigrants, who eventually brought the holiday to the mainstream1.

Trick or Treat, Samhain and guising

The period of Samhain was celebrated by Celtics in Ireland, Scottland and the Isle of Man3. This period, which took place to celebrate the end of the harvest, was seen as a time where boundaries between the worlds of the living and dead were blurred3. This permitted fairies and spirits known as Aos Si to be much more active4.

Traditionally it was believed that the Aos Si needed to be appeased with offerings and that the dead would return to visit their families5. By impersonating the Aos Si, people could receive offerings on their behalf as well as protect themselves from the wrath of the Aos Si. Those who practiced this were known as guisers or mummers. Households that donated to the guisers could expect good luck throughout the winter6. By imitating spirits that were malignant in nature, mummers would threaten to play pranks if offerings were not given. This gave rise to the term "Trick or Treat.7"

Christian influence

Regardless of pagan roots, Halloween became a day of religious obligation by the twelfth century in Europe. According to some Christian literature, the dead may walk the earth until All-hallows Eve, meaning on this night they have their final chance to enact vengeance on the living8. Dressing in a costume is a way to disguise oneself to avoid these acts of vengeance8.

Parishes in the middle ages would display relics of saints and martyrs. Those that didn't have enough funding for such relics would have parishioners dress up as the saints on this day7. Fires would be burnt to guide souls to the afterlife and to ward off the devil9. In France, spirits were said to rise on Halloween in a Danse Macabre as a reminder that all earthly things come to an end10.

Celebrations

Friday 11 August Week 32 | Leila PWaning Gibbous

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