Thursday, October 28, 2010

How "Harvest" Festivals are More Pagan than Halloween...

It is time again for the Great American Tradition of Halloween. Unknown to most, many of our customs from this popular holiday are actually very modern in origin. The parties, Trick or Treating, and outlandish costumes are a wholly modern invention, created to keep children off the streets and out of trouble.

In the past, especially the 19th Century, it was customary for delinquents to go out and cause havoc by burning down buildings and performing a whole host of other frowned upon activities. It finally reached a point where it could not be tolerated any longer, and the custom of Trick or Treating, and throwing lavish Halloween and Costume Parties began, to keep the children out of trouble. It was also a plan to teach new Halloween traditions to the littlest ones and prevent future generations of delinquency.

This Holiday does fall upon the same date as the old European, (mostly Irish) festival of  the end of the harvest season called Samhain. In the Dark Ages, The Roman Catholic Church aimed to replace Samhain with a succession of church approved holidays falling on roughly the same date. It was all part of a plan by the church to gradually integrate the past pagan practices into the new order of things the church brought about after the fall of Rome.

This has been carried on, into modern times, though this time by mostly Protestant religious organizations, the Catholic Church having long ago won the battle when most of Europe was converted to Christianity. Many of these more modern organizations have taken aim at what they believe to be ancient traditions, but which in reality are actually very modern inventions aimed at correcting social problems. They typically hold "Harvest" festivals, seeking to rid the season of it's supposedly pagan image.

The irony of this comes from the fact that the "Harvest" festival is actually more in line with the pagan Samhain holiday than the modern inventions of trick or treating, and spooky costumes. The old holiday was a celebration of the final harvest and the coming of Winter, the season when all the farm plants die off. The farm animals were also slaughtered for winter food supplies. It also marked the end of the old Irish year, who followed a different cycle than our current Romanic system. So in a way, the new alternative to Halloween, the Harvest Festival, is actually much closer to the original than the current modern practices of spooks and hobgoblins.

The irony. The more you try to escape from it, the more it is the same. My advice...

Just have fun and enjoy it! It is the best holiday around!

1 comment:

CMZ Art/ Rustic Goth said...

Very informative post...lots of things I didn't know about Halloween:)