Halloween 101

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By Ntombi Khulu

That time of the year has come again – the ghoul-themed parties and the spooky films make their annual appearance in October for the much anticipated Halloween night. While Halloween is not a holiday typically celebrated in South Africa, it is always fun whipping out the horror movies at night as a tradition for the spooky holiday. But where did Halloween and its rituals come from?

The annual holiday came about more than 2000 years ago, where the Celts – the ancient Celtic people who lived in the region which is now known as the United Kingdom – celebrated the end of the warm season in anticipation of the cold and dark winter with the Samhain festival. The Celts believed that the night before the beginning of the cold season, October 31st, the line between the world of the living and the dead would become blurred and thus to appease these spirits they practiced various rituals that became traditions. Fast forward a few hundred years where the Roman Empire conquered the Celtic states and merged two of their traditions with the Celtic tradition of Samhain.

The blending of Christianity and the ancient Celtic traditions of Samhain in order to create a more church-sanctioned holiday in the early 9th century created a newer tradition where the townsfolk would dress up in costumes and celebrate with parades. As the years went by and Europeans and the Irish immigrated to the United States, the ancient festival trailed along with them. As the immigrants immersed themselves in the culture of the Americans and the modern day Halloween was born. While the ancient festival may have had Christian undertones, Halloween has mainly been celebrated as a fun and social holiday where the plain Jane can turn into a gruesome monster.

 

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