Halloween

halloween

Most people think that Halloween is a festival of evil, where the aim is to scare people by dressing up in very scary costumes, or what I find more bizarre is the whole “trick or treat” notion. Everyday we tell our kids not to take sweets or candies  from strangers, come 31 October we turn the world upside down and say “Go out children,fear not and go to those strangers houses and ask them for treats”

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On the other hand there are people who think is is the time when Jamie Lee Curtis gets chased by that masked knife wielding psychopath Michael Myers.

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In fact Halloween could not be further removed from either of the aforementioned. It goes back for approximately 2000 years.

To find the origin of Halloween, you have to look to the festival of Samhain in Ireland’s Celtic past.

Samhain had three distinct elements. Firstly, it was an important fire festival, celebrated over the evening of 31 October and throughout the following day.

The flames of old fires had to be extinguished and ceremonially re-lit by druids.

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It was also a festival not unlike the modern New Year’s Day in that it carried the notion of casting out the old and moving into the new.

To our pagan ancestors it marked the end of the pastoral cycle – a time when all the crops would have been gathered and placed in storage for the long winter ahead and when livestock would be brought in from the fields and selected for slaughter or breeding.

But it was also, as the last day of the year, the time when the souls of the departed would return to their former homes and when potentially malevolent spirits were released from the Otherworld and were visible to mankind.

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The Celts celebrated four major festivals each year. None of them was connected in anyway to the sun’s cycle. The origin of Halloween lies in the Celt’s Autumn festival which was held on the first day of the 11th month, the month known as November in English but as Samhainin Irish.

This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth.

In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter.

To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities.

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During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other’s fortunes.

On May 13, 609 A.D., Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Pantheon in Rome in honor of all Christian martyrs, and the Catholic feast of All Martyrs Day was established in the Western church. Pope Gregory III later expanded the festival to include all saints as well as all martyrs, and moved the observance from May 13 to November 1.

By the 9th century the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands, where it gradually blended with and supplanted the older Celtic rites. In 1000 A.D., the church would make November 2 All Souls’ Day, a day to honor the dead. It’s widely believed today that the church was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related church-sanctioned holiday.

All Souls Day was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels and devils. The All Saints Day celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints’ Day) and the night before it, the traditional night of Samhain in the Celtic religion, began to be called All-Hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween.

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Halloween in WWII

I know I am more then a week early but with all the trick or treaters calling next week  I might not be have the time to do a piece then.

Although Halloween is originally a Celtic event.Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland. I will be looking at the WWII celebrations of Halloween from an American perspective.. Below are pictures and posters of Halloween during the Second World War. However I am starting of with a picture from before WWII, in fact it is a picture of Halloween 1918, 11 days before the war end. The reason why I am posting this picture is because of the use of the Swastika,long before the Nazi’s stole it.

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1942 propaganda poster.

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1944

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Horror movies were still being made during the war these are posters from “the Uninvited” which was released a few weeks before Halloween 1944.

Children in Halloween Costumes at High Point, Seattle, 1943

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Japanese American group of evacuees in Halloween costumes and make-up at the Harvest Festival on October 31, 1942 at the Tule Lake Relocation Center in California.

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Coca-Cola Halloween poster 1944

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4th November 1942: A GI and his girl friend dancing at a Halloween party for US soldiers in London during WW II.

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I suppose it was easier to face horrors of Halloween then the real horrors of World War II