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Posts Tagged ‘All Saints’ Day’

The Origins of Halloween

As giddy children head out in the streets tonight for Trick or Treat with goody bags in hand, all dressed up in various ghoulish and festive costumes, it may interest students to know a little about the unusual history and traditions of Halloween. Educators can take advantage of eLibrary’s Research Topics and other documents and web resources to aid in their research.

Halloween ProQuest Research Topic

Halloween ProQuest Research Topic

Halloween, as we know it today, appears to have arisen from the convergence of two distinctly different cultures’ earlier holidays: the Irish Gaelic harvest festival Samhain (pronounced sow’in), celebrated with a feast for the dead, and the Roman Catholic Christian holiday of All Saints’ Day, or All Hallows’ Day, which also honored the dead. All Hallows’ Day was originally celebrated in mid-May and honored saints, martyrs, and family members who recently passed away.

Samhain, which is still celebrated today by some Brits and has its roots in Celtic Druidic traditions, marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. The belief was that during this time the divide between our world and the spirit world was at its thinnest and could be easily bridged. Families honored the dead by inviting them into their homes and offering food. However, when people went out at night, in order to avoid the more harmful spirits, they wore costumes and masks to disguise themselves. In addition, Druids built huge bonfires where people brought their fall harvest food to share with the community. Afterwards, people would take a log or branch from the bonfire to light their own fires at home which would keep them warm for the winter months ahead.

Celts ProQuest Research Topic

Celts ProQuest Research Topic

Around 600 A.D. Pope Gregory I, in an effort to Christianize and transform the rituals of the pagans, issued an edict to synthesize their Druidic practices into Christian practices to more easily convert them to Christianity. Eventually, All Hallows’ Day was moved from May 13 to November 1, with All Hallows’ Eve (Halloween) falling on October 31. As a result, many of the ancient Celtic traditions of Samhain survive today. Interestingly, around this same time, Mexico also celebrates El Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead) holiday. Similar to All Saints’ Day and Samhain, but with roots from the Aztec culture, it is also considered a time to celebrate the fall harvest and honor those who have passed away.

Educators can teach students more about these ancient holidays and the people who practiced these ancient rituals and traditions with the help of eLibrary with its accompanying Halloween Research Topic and other related Research Topics and resources below.

Related Research Topics:
All Saints’ Day
Celts

Druidism
Paganism
Roman Catholicism
Day of the Dead

Other Resources:
Halloween
American Heritage (Magazine)
A World of Fright
Ottawa Citizen (Newspaper)
Saint Gregory I (Pope)
Britannica Concise Encyclopedia (Reference Book)

 

All Saints’ Day & All Souls’ Day

These teenagers in Belgium are celebrating the upcoming All Saints’ Day with improvised ghost costumes. [via CultureGrams Photo Gallery]

These teenagers in Belgium are celebrating the upcoming All Saints’ Day with improvised ghost costumes. [via CultureGrams Photo Gallery]

While most people are familiar with Halloween, not as many are familiar with the holidays that fall on the following two days: All Saints’ Day (1 November) and All Souls’ Day (2 November). All Saints’ Eve (Halloween), All Saints’ Day, and All Souls’ Day are traditionally Christian holidays and together are known as Allhallowtide. They are celebrated in countries around the world.

All Saints’ Day, like its name implies, is a holiday that honors all Christian saints. It is a national holiday in many predominantly Catholic countries. All Souls’ Day commemorates loved ones who have passed away. The distinction between All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day tends to be fluid, since both revolve around remembering the dead, and celebrations of both holidays can include visits to cemeteries.

CultureGrams is a great resource for learning about holidays around the world. Each World and Kids edition report has a Holidays section that discusses major holidays in each country. Here are a few examples of what students can learn from CultureGrams about how different countries celebrate All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day:

Austria
“All Saints’ Day, called Allerheiligen, […] is a time for remembering the dead and visiting graves. Many families decorate the graves of their relatives. Some people attend public services for victims of the two World Wars.”

Chile
“All Saints’ Day is an important traditional holiday. On this day, people across the country make a point of visiting cemeteries, where they pay homage to their deceased loved ones and leave flowers on their graves. Families may travel long distances to spend the first and second days of November in their towns of origin, visiting relatives and going to local cemeteries in a group.”

Guatemala
“On 1 November, Guatemalans celebrate Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead, or All Saints’ Day). It is believed that the spirits of the dead are allowed to visit the living on this night. Celebrations combine traditional beliefs with Catholic traditions. Families cook special meals, visit cemeteries, clean family members’ graves, and decorate the graves with flowers. In Santiago, people build and fly large kites with messages for the dead written on both the kites themselves and on the tails.”

Ecuador
“On All Souls’ Day […] people visit cemeteries, eat bread-dough dolls, and drink colada morada (a thick drink made with berries, sweet spices, and purple flour).”

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