There Peggy was dancing with Dan
While Maureen the lead was melting,
To prove how their fortunes ran
With the Cards could Nancy dealt in;
There was Kate, and her sweet-heart Will,
In nuts their true-love burning,
And poor Norah, though smiling still
She'd missed the snap-apple turning.
On the Festival of Hallow Eve.
Snap-Apple Night, by Daniel Maclise, shows
a Halloween party in
Blarney, Ireland in 1832 with
children bobbing for apples and
adults playing a game with a hanging
of the oldest holidays still celebrated, this seemingly bizarre tradition
originated hundreds of years ago with the Celtic people of pre-medieval
Europe. The Celts were were a diverse group of tribal societies of the
Iron Age and Roman-era Europe, which are thought to have originated in
Austria about 800 BC. All speaking some version of the Celtic language, by
450 BC, the culture had expanded across Europe.
Celts of Ireland, Britain, and France divided their year into halves: the
“light half,” roughly consisting of the spring and summer months when days
are longer, and the “dark half,” consisting of the autumn and winter
months when days are shorter and nights are longer.
The Celts celebrated the end
of the light half with the festival of “Samhain,” which roughly translated
to "summer's end" in the old Irish language. It was regarded as the
"Celtic New Year," which not only celebrated the end of harvest and the
beginning of a new year, but also, honored the dead. During this time, the
ancient Celts believed that the border between this world and the
Otherworld became thin, which would allow both harmless and evil spirits
to pass through and roam the streets and villages.
The event was celebrated with
bonfires, feasts, and many superstitions. Following the Roman conquest of
Britain, British Celts adopted the Julian calendar and fixed the date of
Samhain’s observance to November 1st. The evening before was referred to
as All Hallows Eve, from which, the name "Halloween" comes from. To honor
their ancestors and ensure that next year's crops would be plentiful,
treats and gifts were left out for their spirits the night before. To ward
off harmful spirits, the Celts wore costumes, masks, veils, or blackened
their faces, and also left gifts in hopes of pacifying them. These customs
evolved into trick-or-treating. The event also was marked by taking stock
of food supplies and slaughtering livestock for winter stores. The
bonfires played a large part in this tradition, as people and their
livestock would often walk between two fires as a cleansing ritual.
While the holiday began
strictly as a Celtic festival, aspects of Roman religion were incorporated
into its observance over the four centuries of Roman rule in Britain
(43-410 AD). One of these is the tradition of bobbing for apples and
making candied apples, in honor of the Roman goddess of fruit trees and
gardens -- Pamona. As Christianity spread throughout the world, pagan
holidays were either Christianized or forgotten. Halloween continued as it
is the evening before All Saints Day, which was created by Christians to
convert pagans, and is celebrated on November 1st. The Catholic church
honored saints on this designated day.
In the early days of the United States, many
settlers came from England, Ireland, and Scotland, brining their
traditions and beliefs with them. Other immigrant groups added their own
cultural influences including witchcraft, voodoo beliefs, black cats and
more. The event was celebrated differently in various areas with barn
dances, parades, firecrackers, and more superstitions.