October brings many things with it, cooler weather, pumpkin spice lattes and Halloween, a time to dress up and ask your friends and neighbors for candy. What many people don’t know, however, is the origin story of All Hallow’s Eve, an event based more on faith than sugar. It’s also the perfect time to celebrate your favorite saints with a Miracle Icons bracelet or necklace in preparation for the following All Saint’s Day. Here we take a look at how many of these traditions got their start.
European Roots – Based on the Celtic festival of Samhain, All Hallow’s Eve historically marked the end of summer and the harvest. Celtic lore believed that this “New Year” blurred the lines between the living and dead world and it was possible for spirits to return to earth. People burned giant bonfires as sacrifices and dressed up in costume to get their fortunes told. Later they would re-light their hearth fires at home from the sacred bonfires to protect themselves during the coming winter.
After the Roman Empire conquered the majority of the Celtic territory, they combined Samhain with other traditional Roman festivals like Feralia which commemorated the passing of loved ones and a day that celebrated the Goddess of fruit and trees Pomona (which probably introduced “Bobbing” for apples).
The Church gets involved – By the 9th Century, Christianity had spread into Celtic lands, gradually replacing many traditional holidays and festivals with religious ones. November 1st became All Saints Day, where all saints and martyrs where celebrated. All Souls Day followed on November 2nd to remember others in the church who had passed. All Souls Day was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels
Trick or treating – Both dressing up in costume and going door to door asking for treats started as Hallow’s Eve and All Soul’s Day traditions. Dressing up in “disguises” was believed to help people avoid spirits who were back on Earth on October 31st. As the Hallow’s Eve tradition became more Christianized, people would select saints or angels to pay homage to with their costumes. Necklaces with beloved saints could be added protection.
During the All Soul’s Day festivities, poor citizens would beg for food and families would give them pastries called “soul cakes” in return for their promise to pray for the family’s dead relatives.
The distribution of soul cakes was encouraged by the church as a way to replace the ancient practice of leaving food and wine for roaming spirits. The practice, which was referred to as “going a-
Matchmaking – While many Hallow’s Eve traditions were adopted and reimagined over the years, some have been forgotten completely.
In particular, many had to do with helping young women identify their future husbands and reassuring them that they would someday—with luck, by next Halloween—be married. In 18th-century Ireland, a matchmaking cook might bury a ring in her mashed potatoes on Halloween night, hoping to bring true love to the diner who found it.
In Scotland, fortune-tellers recommended that an eligible young woman name a hazelnut for each of her suitors and then toss the nuts into the fireplace. The nut that burned to ashes rather than popping or exploding, the story went, represented the girl’s future husband. (In some versions of this legend, the opposite was true: The nut that burned away symbolized a love that would not last.)
Other rituals were more competitive. At some Halloween parties, the first guest to find a burr on a chestnut-hunt would be the first to marry; at others, the first successful apple-bobber would be the first down the aisle.