Posts Tagged ‘celebrations’

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

Roman Catholicism
Day of the Dead

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


CultureGrams: Birthdays Around the World

When I was growing up, the Thanksgiving holiday season always opened with a birthday celebration. Today is both my dad and my brother’s birthday. My family’s birthday tradition was always that the birthday person got to choose what to eat for our family dinner, and my dad and brother usually chose to have turkey and mashed potatoes, followed by cake and ice cream and opening presents. That meant that my family often had the traditional Thanksgiving meal twice within the period of a week or two.

Birthdays are special occasions throughout the world, and many countries have their own unique traditions. For instance, in the Netherlands, a person’s 50th birthday is often called “seeing Abraham” (or “seeing Sarah for a woman). The birthday person is given special presents, including a cake that is in the shape of an elderly person. A puppet of an elderly person is placed in their front yard to let neighbors and friends know of the birthday celebration. Another example is in Vietnam, where everyone celebrates their birthday on the same day during the Lunar New Year. In many European countries, such as Slovakia or Macedonia, people celebrate an event that is similar to a birthday: their name day (a personal holiday that commemorates the saint after whom a person is named).

Learning about birthday traditions is a fun way to learn about different cultures. Check out some photos of birthdays around the world from the CultureGrams online photo gallery, and let us know what birthday celebrations you find interesting!

-Liel Rowley