Who First Thought Of Knocking On Doors And Begging For Candy?

Well, Halloween, which means "holy or hallowed evening," comes on October 31
Halloween was so named because it was the day before All Hallows or All Saints' Day
This comes on November 1
In a rough translation from the ancient Celtic
Halloween means "None of these things are going to be saints, not now, not never"

The Celts, who occupied northern and western Europe, had Druidism as their religion
These priests noted two important feasts
Beltane on May 1, and the autumn festival Samhain on the last day of October
Samhain came after the harvest had been gathered
This holiday meant the end of summer and the beginning of winter
Their New Year began on November 1 and our Halloween was their New Year's Eve

Druid priests were nature worshipers
They performed mystic ceremonies to the great Son God at such places as a circle near Chartres, France, and at Stonehenge
Today as you visit the latter
You see great stone pillars placed in a circle
Around which the white-garbed priests are said to have marched

A supernatural element was part of the autumn festival
For the Druids tried to placate the Lord of Death
It was believed that he allowed the spirits of those who had died during the past twelve months to spend a few hours at their homes at this time
There they could warm themselves at the blazing hearth
They could also enjoy the smell of food cooking on spits in the fireplace

One of the important rites in connection with the ancient observance of Halloween was the lighting of great bonfires on hilltops to honor the sun god and to frighten away evil spirits who had been released on that special night
For several days beforehand young boys went around begging material for the fires
They probably went up to front doors asking stick or peat
You can see what that evolved into

Then after the heaps were aflame, people danced and sang around them
They often pretended they were being pursued by evil spirits
As many jumped over the flames or dashed through them
Their grotesque masks added to the fantastic scene

This was the time, too, when it was believed that witches rode through the skies on their broomsticks
The idea being that there were women who had sold themselves to the Devil
This was prevalent among the Druids as it had been among early Egyptians and Romans

On Halloween, these witches were said to dance on the hilltops with goblins and imps
While the Devil himself played the bagpipes or castanets made from dead men's bones

This was the night of the full yellow moon
Black cats, bats, elves, and fairies were abroad
Frustrated ghosts were supposed to play tricks on human beings
They also would cause supernatural happenings
Farmers fastened bells that had been blessed on their cows
They also placed crossed branches of ash and juniper at stable doors
This kept witches from harming the animals

The people celebrated that night around the massive bonfires
They talked of mysterious sights or weird sounds they had encountered
No doubt, the forerunner of our custom of relating ghost stories on Halloween

It would seem apparent from these ancient chronicles that either life was pretty dull most of the year in northern Europe or the Druids brewed a fairly mean mushroom wine

In Ireland, "New Fires" were kindled on this occasion
Each householder put out the fire on his hearth
Then they gathered with others at a certain place
The Druid priests rubbed together pieces of sacred oak
Next they started a blaze on the altar
Each head of a family then carried home a new fire
This was to last until the next autumn festival

On Halloween, the farmers often set forkfuls of hay afire
They then waved them in the air to frighten the witches
This custom is said to have continued in the British Isles until the eighteenth century
It would also account for the male baldness prevalent during this period

Our modern Halloween also has some elements that originated in the ancient Roman feast honoring Pomona, Goddess Of Fruits

After the Romans had conquered Britain,
Some of their customs were added to thse of the Druids

Since the Roman festival also occurred after harvest
Today at Halloween parties we feature fruit centerpieces, apples and nuts
For contests, apples are hung on strings or placed in tubs of water
Cider was the popular drink of the day
The nuts used are symbolic of food stored for winter

With early tribes
Halloween was a time for divination or fortune telling
For they were eager to learn what might happen to them in the next year

The priests cut an animal open and from the entrails foretold the future
Some used the peculiar shapes of vegetables for this purpose

A young person often peeled an apple
They then threw the peeling over their shoulder
Then from its shape told the initial of a sweetheart

The blowing of candles and opening and closing of doors, too, were means of divination

There was a belief that if anyone ate a crust of bread before going to sleep
That any wish that they made would come true
They sure don't make bread like that anymore

Girls tried to discover who their husbands would be in this fashion
A maiden carried a candle along a dark hall, or down a stairway
She hoped to see the face of her future mate in the mirror held in her other hand

At times, a young man was blindfolded and allowed to choose one of three bowls
If he selected the empty one, he would be a bachelor
If the bowl contained muddy water, he would marry a widow
While the one with clear water signified that a young girl would be his bride

So today when children wear ghost costumes, false faces, or witches' hats
Or make soap crosses on cars or windows, carry pumpkin lanterns
Or use black cats, bats, witches, corn candies, etc., as decorations at their Halloween parties, they are following some very ancient customs

So Lets Hear It For The Druids

Go put on some funny clothes and a mask
Go build a fire in your front yard and leap through it
Then start waving burning chunks of hay in the air
Then the police will come and you'll get to spend the night with some really scary people
Better yet, dress up as an IRS auditor and scare the willies out of your neighbors

Author Unknown


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