Is Halloween In The US A Public Holiday?
Halloween in the US is not a public holiday. Most businesses, stores, and shops open on this day, although with Halloween discounts. Schools and universities may or may not close on this day, depending on the requirement of the curriculum. Public transportations also follows their usual route. However, they are often filled with people dressed up as ghouls and vampires, among other things, commuting to costume parties.
What Is Samhain?
Samhain is a Gaelic festival. It marks the end of the harvest season as well as the beginning of the darker part of the year. The day is celebrated midway between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice, beginning from the sunset of 31 October and continuing until that of 1 November. As per mythology, Samhain was a time when the veil between this world and the other world (the fairy or spirit world) was at its thinnest.
People believed that creatures from the other side of the veil could pass over into our world on this night. As a result, cleansing and protective bonfires were lit to safeguard everyone from the malefic powers. In many regions, smearing the ash from the blaze was also a ritual for refuge against evil spirits. On the flip side, a place was set up at feasts for the souls of their dead.
The latter were welcomed in homes on this night as this was a time for paying their respects to their deceased. Dressing up as ghouls, ghosts, and other creatures of the night was considered to be a way of hiding from the real spirits, and thus, remaining protected from them.
How Is It Related To Halloween In The US?
In the 9th century, as Christianity rose, and many pagan and olden traditions were Christianized, the Western Church did the same with Samhain. This day of the dead was combined with All Saints’ Day to come up with a new “All Hallow’s Eve” or, more commonly, Halloween in the US.
Halloween Celebrations In The US
Ancient Halloween Traditions
Several traditions are associated with Halloween in the US since as long ago as the 12th century. Let us first take a look at these:
People baked soul cakes to give away, while soulers (usually poor children) would go from door to door collecting these cakes in exchange for praying for the dead of their families. These children would pray for the departed souls of the family, who were currently in Purgatory, waiting to move on to their final destination – heaven.
As per beliefs, the veil is thinnest on Halloween. Thus, this is the last day for wronged souls to take their revenge before moving on to the next world. To remain safe from such spirits out for vengeance, people would paint their faces or wear costumes and masks to stay disguised until All Hallow’s Eve ended.
Turnips were carved, and candles or paper (wisps) lit within them to guide the pure souls to their final destination while sending demons away. The original story talked about a man Jack or Will. According to legend, he tricked the Devil into doing his bidding. But then, he did not let the Devil take his soul in barter, again through deception.
As a result, when he died and was denied entry into heaven, the Devil, angry and vengeful, did not take his soul either. Instead, he sent Jack away to wander forever with only a piece of coal to light his way. The latter placed the small fire into a hollow turnip to save it from extinguishing. Ever since then, people would carve a turnip and put some wisps or coal in it and light them up. This was to guide lost souls like Jack.
Present Traditions for Halloween In The US
With time, and as European settlers arrived in America and took on some of their customs, the original ancient traditions changed forms. Let us take a look at how these rituals differ from the old ones in today’s time:
Originally Souling, the going from door to door for soul cakes has now changed to asking for treats instead. With time these treats have evolved, and now most homes stock up on candies and chocolates of different types. These, they give away to trick-or-treating children on Halloween in the US. Several traditions mixed to give rise to the present one. Children would go to each home in their neighborhood asking for treats or threatening to cause mischief, i.e., tricks if the gifts were not bestowed.
- Dressing Up
Much like costumes of the old, children today dress up when they go out trick or treating. These costumes would often be of ghosts, vampires, and other creatures from the other side of the veil. With time, these dresses have also evolved and young and old alike now cosplay as their favorite superheroes, movie/comic book characters, game avatars, and more. Costume parties and best-dressed competitions are run by many places on and around Halloween in the US.
When the European travelers arrived in America, instead of carving out turnips on All Hallow’s Eve, they turned to the indigenous pumpkin. Not only were they readily available, but also larger and more comfortable to carve out. Moreover, the pumpkin was already associated with harvest in the Americas. Thus, this was another form of mixing of traditions between the old and the new. Soon, Will-o’-the-wisps became Jack-o’-lanterns for Halloween in the US.
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1. Why is Halloween celebrated?
The word "Halloween" originates from "All Hallows Eve," or the day before All Saints Day, a traditional Christian holy day. In the real world, according to tradition, the spirits of the deceased return to life on this day to damage people and crops.
2. Why does America celebrate Halloween?
This day marked the end of summer and harvest, and the start of dark, cold winter, a time of year often associated with human death. They celebrated Samhain on the night of October 31, when it was believed the ghosts of the dead returned to earth.
3. Which countries celebrate Halloween?
France, Italy, Japan, Great Britain, Spain & Latin America, China, India and Czech Republic also celebrate Halloween.
4. What is the fear of Halloween called?
Samhainophobia is the fear of Halloween or the fear of the festival of the dead.
Halloween Celebrations in Other Countries
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