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Posts Tagged ‘Autumn’

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)

 

Yom Kippur and Eid al-Adha Confluence. Bonus: The Start of Autumn

For the second year in a row tomorrow, two of the holiest days on the Jewish and Islamic calendars, Yom Kippur and Eid al-Adha fall on the same day. Prior to 2014, this had not happened for 30 years. Last year, because of mounting tensions between Jews and Muslims, there was concern about the threat of violence, especially considering the contrasting nature of the two holidays.

Yom Kippur Research Topic

Yom Kippur Research Topic via ProQuest eLibrary

Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, is considered to be the holiest day of the year in Judaism and ends the 10-day time of repentance know as the High Holy Days. It is a solemn, reflective occasion during which Jews stay indoors and fast. In Israel, activity largely comes to a halt, as most people abstain from driving, and airports, businesses and trains shut down. This has led to a phenomenon known as “bicycle day,” during which secular Israelis take advantage of the lack of traffic to spend the day biking, skating and getting out into the empty streets.

Eid al-Adha Research Topic

Eid al-Adha Research Topic via ProQuest eLibrary

Eid al-Adha comes at the end of the hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca made by millions of Muslims each year. It celebrates the story of Abraham (or Ibrahim), whose faith was tested when he was told by God to sacrifice his son. Abraham was ready to follow through but was stopped by an angel at the last moment and ended up sacrificing a ram instead. Eid al-Adha is holiday of celebration, feasting and getting out to be with family.

One thing that the two holidays have something in common: goats. According to this article, Jewish communities of old chose a goat to carry all of their sins and then cast it into the wilderness, a tradition that gave us the word “scapegoat.” In Islam, goats are ritually slaughtered to represent Abraham’s sacrifice of the ram.

Surprisingly, these two holidays have nothing to do with the Autumnal Equinox, which also occurs this September 23. It is just a fluke of the Jewish, Islamic and Gregorian calendars in 2015. We think of fall as a time when the temperature begins to drop, the leaves begin changing color and football season gets into full gear. But, what is an equinox? It is a change in the seasons in which the sun is at a 90-degree angle to the earth’s equator at noon and the length of the day is equal to the length of the night. Basically, before the fall equinox, the sun is up for more than half the day and after the equinox it is up for less than half. This lessening of the amount of sunlight is why we begin to get relief from the summer temperatures and the trees start their annual show of color. Oh, and if you have heard that the only time you can stand an egg on its end is on an equinox, click here.

For information on these topics and many others, follow the links above, search in eLibrary or browse our thousands of Research Topic pages.

Happy autumn, and happy birthday to Autumn (my wife, that is).