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Culture is a kind of art that distinguishes certain groups of people from others. Cultures are socially acceptable ideas, customs, and behaviors. It signifies the civilization, lifestyle and normal way of life among people in a particular society. Culture is built on society. People in each society invent rules and conventions that everyone must follow. People form a legacy that is passed down from generation to generation. Heritage is the foundation of a particular society's honor, courage and pride. The newspaper takes up the holiday of Halloween as a cultural festival. The holiday of Halloween is a cultural celebration that dates be over 2000 years. It started in Samhain the present day area occupied by the United Kingdom, northern France, and Ireland. It was a festival that was conducted to honor the dead. This festival stemmed out of the Celtic culture. This culture was widespread in Europe in the year’s c. 1000-700BCE (www.halloween-website.com). The Indo European tribes commonly practice the culture. They migrated from southern Russia and came to settle in Samhain. The Druids were members of this ancient culture and were considered as the most learned in the society. They were the priest judges, noblemen and teachers within the culture (www.britannica.com).
The Celtic culture involved a lot of human sacrifices. The Druids were appointed to carry out the required rituals to offer these sacrifices. These sacrifices were believed to protect and heal those who were gravely ill or on the verge of dying in battles among other disasters. The Druids often sacrificed the criminals and outcasts of the society. When circumstances would force them, the Druids would sacrifice innocent people as well.
The Halloween festival is a fascinating holiday. It is a cultural experience that is filled with rich heritage and fascinating customs that draw one’s curiosity to finding out more fun facts about this festival. The Halloween festival is different from many other celebrations that are common practices worldwide. For example the Easter holiday. This is a Christian holiday celebrated worldwide to commemorate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (www.internationalstudentguidetotheusa.com). For most Christians around the world, they hold religious services and have family gatherings where they conduct prayers to remember the sacrifice that Jesus made for the sake of the sins that humankind did. Others people mostly in America follow the old traditions whereby they color hard-boiled eggs, and the children are given baskets of candy. On Easter Monday, the president holds an Easter egg hunt whereby the kids are allowed to hunt for eggs all over the white house lawns. The egg is used as a symbol of life. It is compared to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross.
The culture involves a lot of customs all of which helped me learn more about it. I participated in several activities such as dressing up as past characters such as Frankenstein. Trick-or-Treating is another activity that I participated in. It involved dressing up and knocking on my neighbors' doors. When they answered, they would put handfuls of candy into my bowl. I accompanied my friends around the neighborhood while participating in Trick-or-Treating. The festival involved other activities such as decorating yards while applying superstitious themes. These are some of the activities that helped me understand the culture in a better way.
Participant observation is a data collection method used in anthropology. It involves the observer being part of the ongoing activities and making observations as a participant. In this case, learning more about the culture required me as the observer to be part of the Halloween celebrations. This festival is not only for treats. The participants are supposed to use tricks too. These tricks are pranks used to give a good scare to other people. That is where the fun of this festivity is derived. For instance, I observed the way people tell scary stories during parties such as ghosts that haunt the houses and roam around graveyards. This particularly works when the house is decorated in a theme that represents a tomb with skeletons all over the walls. The best way that I could have learned more about the culture is being the host of the Halloween parties. I could have gotten more knowledge about how people prepare to receive the guests in Halloween parties and what type of food is prepared together with the recipes.
The Halloween festival is a type of pagan culture that has its adaptations, structures, and meanings. Halloween festivity has its costumes that the people are supposed to wear. These costumes were invented by the Celts who came up with this festivity. The ancient Celts would lit huge Bonfires and then dress up in animal skin and after that disguise themselves as the spirits and demons who roamed around haunting people. They would then dance and tell stories and participate in activities such as reading fortunes. Today, this culture has evolved, and some things have changed. People no longer dress up in animal skins and heads. They dress up and disguise themselves as other characters and pull pranks on people. Halloween parties are usually thrown where people drink and eat and treat each other with candy.
There are other traditions in this culture that still originated from the Celts. The myth of jack ‘o lanterns was a story that the Celts used to narrate about a miserable man by the name jack. According to this myth, Jack tricked the devil and was unable to enter the gates of heaven or hell. For that reason, he was doomed to roam the earth miserably for eternity. He curved a lantern from a turnip and lit it using coal. This was to help keep the evil spirits away. Today, people curve pumpkins into jack-o –lanterns and place them in front of their doors and houses for the same purpose as Jack used his lantern.
The custom of trick or treating did not evolve from the Celts. It came from Ireland where the poor people would go door to door to the houses of the rich people and beg for treats such as food, money, gifts among others. This was done in preparation of the All Hallows Eve where there would be a huge feast and lots of celebrations.
Another custom is the lighting of the Bonfires. This originated from the Northern Ireland. Bonfires were used during the rituals of animal sacrifices in this culture. The Druids would perform rituals in ceremonies and then make sacrifices that they believed would appease the gods. The Celts would later bring lots of wood and start making a Bonfire. This was usually done on a hilltop. After the sacrifice and rituals, they would throw the bones of the sacrificed animals into the fire. The lighting of Bonfires and offering sacrifices to the gods was symbolic. It was a way of guarantee that the sun would shine brightly upon the people after long months of winter. The customs still exists today. During Halloween night, there are hundreds of Bonfires that are lit in Ireland.
During this holiday, some animals and other objects are believed to carry bad omen and signify other superstitious beliefs. For example, the black cats are used to signify bad omen. Witches in the middle ages were known to go on hunting sprees with black cats. Therefore the people believe that the cats are a symbol of evil. The people also believe that if an owl looks into a person’s window, bad luck and death will follow the person. The number thirteen is also associated with bad luck on the Halloween night. Many people even today believe that the number thirteen is an unlucky figure. During this holiday, some paint their doors with the number just to play pranks on other people.
Not all superstitions in this festival bring bad luck. There are some which are believed to bring good luck charms to people. For example, a rabbit’s foot is used as a good lu8ck charm that wards off the bad luck. The belief in this culture is that a person must carry the rabbit’s foot around the neck, tied with a chain or in the left back pocket. It is believed that the older it gets, the more good luck it brings. The Celts would use clover to protect themselves, and their animals from evil spells and the four leaf clover were thought to bring good luck especially to the Irish.
The Halloween holiday has a lot of themes that have different meanings. The black and orange colors are the most common in this festival. The black is a symbol of darkness and death, and the orange symbolizes the fall harvest. The festival was brought to the United States by immigrants from Ireland, United Kingdom and northern France where the culture originated from. The Celts believed in mythical creatures such as werewolves and vampires. These creatures are believed to be evil and brought bad omen to the society. Today, this belief still exists, and folktales such as Dracula are proof of vampire existence.
In conclusion, Halloween is one of the most celebrated festivals in the world. This holiday carries a lot of fascinating customs that were practiced in the Celtic culture. This is a culture that is very rich in heritage and has been passed on to every generation for over two thousand years.
In the early days the custom thrived on the beliefs of the people about evil spirits. It was a festival where the dead were remembered, and the gods were appeased through sacrifices to bring good fortune to the people.
Today the Halloween tradition thrives on the twisted folktales myths and legends that mostly pry on the innermost fears of the people. People tell ghost stories and scary and creepy stories during this festival. The festivity is further enhanced by the chilly weather and the long nights that come with the autumn season.
Samhain-summers end or the month of November.
Halloween- a holiday of honoring the dead.
All Hallows Eve- another term for Halloween.
All Saints Day- 1st November. A holiday created by Christians to convert pagans to Christians and to honor all saints.
Celtic culture- a group of respective cultures originating from Ireland, Scotland Wales and Brittany.
Druid- a member of the most learned noblemen of the ancient Celts
Trick-or-Treating- the custom of the poor requesting for gifts, food, and money from the rich.
Bonfire- fires lit on hilltops when performing rituals during Halloween.
Jack-o-lanterns- the lanterns that are lit during Halloween to chase away evil spirits.
Celt- the European people who spoke the Celtic language
Origin of Halloween
Www.halloween-website.com. “Halloween History & Origin.” Halloween History and Origin, www.halloween-website.com/history.htm.
The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. “Druid.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, inc., 15 June 2011, www.britannica.com/topic/Druid.
“Celtic Culture (C.1,000 BCE onwards).” Celtic Culture: Characteristics of Visual Art, Language, Religion, www.visual-arts-cork.com/cultural-history-of-ireland/celtic-culture.htm.
“National CelebrationsHolidays in USA.” Study in US, www.internationalstudentguidetotheusa.com/articles/holidays_customs.htm.
Carter, Harold, et al. “Wales.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, inc., 20 July 2017, www.britannica.com/place/Wales.
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