Halloween in French Canadian, is a traditional folk and pagan festival from the Anglo-Celtic Islands celebrated on the evening of October 31, the eve of the Christian holiday of All Saints. His name is a contraction of the English All Hallows-Even which means the eve of All Hallows' Day in contemporary English and can be translated as "the day before all the saints" or "the vigil of All Saints".

Despite its Christian and English origin, the vast majority of sources [ref. wished] to present Halloween as a legacy of Samain's pagan festival, which was celebrated early in the autumn by the Celts and was a kind of New Year's party for them. Halloween is known today as Oíche Shamhna in Gaelic. It is a very popular holiday in Ireland, Scotland and Wales where there are many historical records of its existence. Jack-o'-lantern, the iconic halloween lantern, is itself from an Irish legend.

It was from the eighth century, under Pope Gregory III (731-741) and, in the following century, under Pope Gregory IV (827-844), that the Catholic Church moved the feast of All Saints, who could to celebrate until then after Easter or after Pentecost, on November 1st, christianizing the feast of Samain.

The Halloween party is introduced in the United States and Canada after the massive arrival of Irish and Scottish emigrants, notably following the Great Famine in Ireland (1845-1851). It gained popularity in the 1920s and it is on the new continent that appear lanterns Jack-o'-lanterns made from pumpkins, of local origin, replacing the turnips used in Europe.

Halloween is today celebrated primarily in Ireland, Great Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and, to a lesser extent, many other countries. The best-known modern tradition is for kids to dress up in frightening costumes like ghosts, witches, monsters or vampires and go door-to-door asking for treats with the formula: Trick or treat! which means "sweets or a spell! Note 1. The evening can also be marked by bonfires2, fireworks, children's games, the reading of horror tales or Halloween poems, the broadcast of horror films, but also the holding of early Masses of All Saints' Day in its strictly religious component2.

Etymology and spelling

The etymology of the word Halloween belongs strictly to the English language, with no relation to Gaelic or any other Celtic language. Its current name is an alteration of All Hallows Eve3, which literally means "the watch of all saints," that is, the eve of the Christian holiday of All Saints. Hallow is an archaic form of the English word holly and means "holy," even is a common form that has formed evening, evening. Hallowe'en spelling is still used occasionally in Canada and the United Kingdom6, "e'en" being the contraction of even, now "een".

In Canada, the word "Halloween" is preceded by the definite article "the". For example: "It's Halloween! ". According to the Quebec Office of the French Language, "despite the fact that in typography the capital letters characterize the names of civil or religious festivals, this term is sometimes attested with a lower case. On the other hand, even if this word is of foreign origin, the initial "h" is silent, which leads to its elision, for example in the expression of Halloween sweets. "


Celtic origins: Samain's feast

Most historians view the traditional pagan folk feast of Halloween as a legacy of Samain, a feast celebrated in the early autumn by the Celts and a kind of New Year's party for them7,8,9,10 . During Celtic protohistory, there was a religious festival - Samain in Ireland, Samonios in Gaul - which was held under the authority of the Druids for seven days: the day of Samain himself and three days before and three days later. "This is a closing party for the past year and the opening of the coming year11. The time of Samain is that of the Sidh (the other world) briefly confused with that of humanity. The night of Samain belongs neither to the year that ends, nor to that which begins. The party is a closed period outside time. This is the period when the barriers are lowered and where, according to the beliefs of the time, the unreal rubs the real and where men can communicate with the people of the other world (These are demons or of the gods of Tuatha de Danann) 13. On this closing night, the Gauls used to practice a ceremony to make sure that the new year to come would be held serenely14. Traditionally, they extinguished the fire in their homes and then gathered in a circle around the sacred fire of the altar, where the fire was also muffled to prevent the intrusion of evil spirits into the village. After the ceremony, each household received hot coals to rekindle the fire in their homes to protect the family from the dangers of the coming year14.

Druidic feasts disappeared from Ireland in the fifth century, with the arrival of a new religion, Christianity.
Halloween, All Saints Day and the Day of the Dead

The Catholic holiday of All Saints originates from a commemoration of all the martyrs instituted in Rome in 613 by Pope Boniface IV; originally it was celebrated on May 13, anniversary of the dedication of the Pantheon. It replaced the "Lemuria" feast of ancient Rome celebrated on that date to ward off evil specters.

In the 9th century, the feast was extended to "all saints" by Pope Gregory IV and postponed to 1 November15. Historians generally consider that this date was chosen to Christianize Samain's festival8,15. Some specialists, however, consider the festivities of the "Eve of All Saints" as exclusively to be related to the Christian tradition and reject any pagan origin at these celebrations8.

The celebration of Toussaint was followed locally by an office of the dead as early as the 9th century. In 998, the monks of Cluny instituted a feast of the dead on November 2, which entered as in the Roman liturgy as a memorial of the faithful dead in the thirteenth century17. The worship of the dead, however, remained massively celebrated on 1 November18. On the Continent, the historian Nadine Cretin cites a Breton belief that would have lasted until the beginning of the twentieth century, according to which the souls of the dead returned on the eve of All Saints' Day and during solstice nights. Before going to bed, they were left with food on the table and a lit log in the fire so that they could warm themselves. This belief is not Christian, it could be, if it is confirmed, a survival of Samain.

Dissemination of Ireland in America

Outside the Carolingian Empire, the change of date was not systematic; Ireland continued to celebrate the martyrs on 20 April and not on 1 November20. The abundant medieval Irish literature, elaborated by the clergy between the 8th and 12th centuries, mentions only the sacred feast of Samain.

Following the Great Famine of 1845 in Ireland, more than 2 million Irish settled in the United States and brought with them their practices and customs.

Jack o 'lantern


Jack-o'-lantern is probably the most popular character associated with Halloween. It comes from an old Irish tale. Jack would have chased the devil for five good years. Jack would have been a miser, a drunkard, naughty and egocentric character. One evening, while he was in a tavern, the devil appeared to him and claimed his soul. Jack asks the devil to offer him a drink, a last drink before leaving for hell. The devil accepts and turns into a sixpence room. Jack grabs it and immediately places it in his purse. The latter having a lock in the shape of a cross, the devil can not escape. Finally, Jack agreed to release the devil, as long as he gave him another ten years to live. Ten years later, Jack did another joke to the devil, leaving him on top of a tree (on which he had carved a cross with his knife) with the promise that he would no longer pursue him.

 When Jack dies, entrance to paradise is denied, and the devil also refuses to let him enter hell. Jack managed to convince the devil to give him a piece of hot coal to light his way in the dark. He places the charcoal in a turnip dug as a lantern and is condemned to wander aimlessly until the day of the last judgment. He is then named Jack of the Lantern, or Jack-o'-lantern. He reappears each year, the day of his death, on Halloween.



Originally, the Halloween symbol was a turnip containing a candle to commemorate the legend of Jack-o'-lantern (Jack on the Lantern), condemned to wander eternally in the darkness between hell and paradise. illuminating with a fireball placed in a turnip. The turnip was gradually replaced by a pumpkin. Although there is a British Isles tradition of carving a lantern from a rutabaga or a turnip, the practice was associated with Halloween in North America, where the pumpkin was wider and easier to carve22 .

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the children of Finistère, in Brittany, would have had the custom of carving heads in beets and turnips at the approach of All Saints, as well as to play tricks to other villagers, according to an anecdote reported by Pierre-Jakez Hélias in his book The Horse of Pride7.

However, skulls made from turnips are not an exclusive Halloween tradition. In the nineteenth century, in the Vosges, it was also scultpated skulls in turnips to celebrate the Saint Gregory (see lantern).

The imagery that surrounds Halloween is a big amalgam of the Halloween season (a season where nights get longer and longer compared to the day), a century or so of artistic representations (especially in American films) 23 , and a mercantile desire to commercialize what relates to the dark and the mysterious. This usually involves death, magic, or mythical monsters. The characters commonly associated with Halloween are ghosts, ghouls, witches, vampires, bats, owls, crows, vultures, haunted houses, cemeteries, pumpkin characters, black cats , spiders, goblins, zombies, mummies, skeletons, werewolves and demons. Especially in the United States, the symbolism is inspired by the classics of horror cinema, with characters like Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, the Werewolf and the Mummy. Houses are often decorated with these symbols24.

Orange and black are the two colors traditionally associated with Halloween. For the historian Nadine Cretin, these colors were adopted after the meeting of Halloween with the ancient Day of the Dead celebrated in Mexico10. In newer products and images, mauve, green and red colors can be found. The use of these colors is, in part, due to their use in advertising related to this festival for over a century25.


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