Friday, October 29, 2010

Origin of Halloween (Part 5)

Alright, so here we are on day 5 of our journey to attempt and fully discern the full history of Halloween and why it's celebrated like it is today. Today we'll start in America. Puritan America, actually.

Puritans, like I mentioned yesterday, were the religious group of people that sprung up once Martin Luther went against the Catholic Church for their skewed doctrines, and tried to get away from all the pagan practices of the Church by starting a new one. Many of these Puritans found themselves forced to move because of religious persecution they faced in Europe, and relocated into America. Between 1629 and 1640, it's estimated that over 21,000 puritans moved to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Puritans were strongly against practicing Halloween.

So against it and other forms of paganism, that it eventually became their undoing. The most famous Witch Hunt in Salem, Massachusetts occurred 1692. Dozens were accused of being witches, and 20 ended up dying because of the extreme superstition and their blind common sense: 19 by hanging, and 1 was crushed to death by rocks.

On another Colony, Halloween continued to live on, unabated by the efforts of the Puritans. This colony, Virgina, would be the birthplace of American Halloween. It was popular to have parties on this night, where many of the guests would partake in ghost stories and bob for apples, amongst other games. Many popular games included divination. Women would look for their future husbands faces to appear in food they cooked in fire. Some girls would leave a wet towel hanging and as superstition went, the boy that the girl loved would come and make a fold in the towel overnight. Play parties, as they were called, during the time of Halloween, were very popular.

At the turn of the 19th century, the Irish began to swarm into the country and they breathed new life into many practices that had already taken hold here, such as ghost stories, which became even more popular in the late 1800s. You see, many of the Irish never truly did stop celebrating their Celtic Samhain, although the belief patterns amongst people had drastically changed since then and many by this time had no clue what Samhain was. The pumpkins which were very prevalent in America, were much easier to carve into than the turnips of Ireland, and this is a great example of how American culture turned darker traditions into light-hearted fun. By the end of the 19th century, this previously adult holiday would become celebrated by those younger and younger.

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