From all of us at Lee’s Summit Physicians Group, we hope you have a safe and fun Halloween.
Organizations all over the city are having “safe” trick-or-treating opportunities in their buildings and parking lots. It’s always a good idea to go early and with friends. And be sure to spread the candy haul out over a couple of weeks (at least) to avoid stomach aches and children bouncing off the walls.
We enjoy celebrating Halloween, and thought it would be fun to share some of our pictures with you!
History of Halloween
Today’s Halloween customs are thought to have been influenced by folk customs and beliefs from the Celtic-speaking countries. Historian Nicholas Rogers, exploring the origins of Halloween, notes that while “some folklorists have detected its origins in the Roman feast of Pomona, the goddess of fruits and seeds, or in the festival of the dead called Parentalia, it is more typically linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain, which comes from the Old Irish for ‘summer’s end’.”
For the Celts, the day ended and began at sunset; and the festival began on the evening before November 7th (the half point between equinox and solstice). Samhain and Calan Gaeaf are mentioned in some of the earliest Irish and Welsh literature. The names have been used by historians to refer to Celtic Halloween customs up until the 19th century and are still the Gaelic and Welsh names for Halloween. Snap-Apple Night, painted by Daniel Maclise in 1833, shows people feasting and playing divination games on Halloween in Ireland.
Samhain/Calan Gaeaf marked the end of the harvest season and beginning of winter or the ‘darker half’ of the year. It was seen as a liminal time, when the boundary between this world and the Otherworld thinned. This meant the ‘spirits’ or ‘fairies’, could more easily come into this world and were particularly active. Offerings of food and drink, or portions of the crops, were left outside for the spirits. The souls of the dead were also said to revisit their homes seeking hospitality. Places were set at the dinner table and by the fire to welcome them. The belief that the souls of the dead return home on one night of the year and must be appeased seems to have ancient origins and is found in many cultures throughout the world. In 19th century Ireland, “candles would be lit and prayers formally offered for the souls of the dead. After this the eating, drinking, and games would begin”.
Throughout Ireland and Britain, the household festivities included rituals and games intended to foretell one’s future, especially regarding death and marriage. Apples and nuts were often used in these divination rituals. They included apple bobbing, nut roasting, scrying or mirror-gazing, pouring molten lead or egg whites into water, dream interpretation, and others.
From at least the 16th century, the festival included mumming and guising in Ireland, Scotland, the Isle of Man and Wales. This involved people going house-to-house in costume (or in disguise), usually reciting verses or songs in exchange for food. In Scotland, youths went house-to-house with masked, painted or blackened faces, often threatening to do mischief if they were not welcomed.
It’s interesting to know more about the history of Halloween! For more information, check out the entry for Halloween on Wikipedia.