Thursday, 27 October 2016

So my children asked: 'Was there Halloween in the Middle Ages'?

So I finally have some time to breathe, relax, and get some blogging in. I apologize for the long bit of silence, but grad school and unexpected life difficulties! 

So it’s that time of year, harvest time, Halloween and all that craziness. My girls have been asking, was there Halloween in the Middle Ages? My answer was I am not totally sure. But let's look it up. Halloween according to some such as The New York Carver (2012) mentions, 'The festival of Samahain marked the Celtic New Year when dead souls were believed to walk the earth.’ That being said roots the tradition of Halloween deeply within Celtic culture and society.
Research indicates that the name 'Halloween' stemming from All Hollow’s even is purely a Christian tradition that began in the early Middle Ages. Reasons behind the survival of this strongly pagan holiday and its inner-connectedness with the Medieval Church, is something that bewilders many scholars and researchers today. But nonetheless, it aided its preservation.
Furthermore, the tradition behind Halloween or even it’s connotation with harvest time, ‘is a descendent of the Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sah-een) or 'summer's end' in the original Scots Gaelic’ Carver (2012).
Traditionally, the celebration held on 1 November began the Celtic New Year when dead souls were believed to walk the earth. What we deem as treats once then called ‘Soul cakes’ were left out for good spirits and lanterns, and then they were turnips, was customarily lit. Today our lanterns a solely American tradition, now everywhere, is in the form of a carved pumpkin. The purpose of this lantern, as well as the lights of which we all love to carry, was ‘to ward off stray evil spirits that also happened to pierce the thin veil of the underworld during this time of year’. This necessity rooted in the medieval theory and thought of the unknown, resulted in these deep and also imbedded traditions such as the Samhain tradition, in the psyche of man that resulted in it’s survival for centuries, Carver (2012).
In the eighth century, the Church branded 1 November All Hallows Day (or the day of the holy ones) in honour of the saints. It was not until two centuries later, the Church followed the Samhain festival more closely by naming November 2 All Souls Day in honour of the dead.
Additionally, the medieval custom of beginning observances the night before, All Hallows Evening, or Halloween became a popular name for the 31 October, thus resulting in our modern term of Halloween. Collectively this holiday is still celebrated today.
So in terms of the questions my children asked, yes, there was Halloween in the Middle Ages.