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What day is it today? Apart from Halloween, that is

4 costumed figures in the dark, with flaming torches: Samhain celebration - Scotland, UK
Samhain celebration - Scotland, UK

Well, it's Vanilla Ice's birthday. Also John Keats' and Christopher Columbus' birthdays. It's also Samhain, which begins at nightfall on October 31 and continues until sunset on November 1 every year. It is considered one of the most important festivals of the ancient Celtic religion.

Samhain is a harvest festival. It celebrates the end of the harvest season and the arrival of winter and is about halfway between the autumn equinox and winter solstice. The rituals of Samhain are communal in nature. People make merry by wearing costumes and trick-or-treating. Samhain has an ancient Celtic history and is connected with several significant events in Irish mythology. The festival changed as it reached different nations, which makes it an even more interesting event.

History of Samhain

For the ancient Celts, Samhain was an agricultural festival that marked the time when summer ended, and people took stock of the food before winter. With the end of the harvest season, it was also considered a time of supernatural intensity when the forces of darkness walked on Earth.

Ancient Celtic people used to build large bonfires, hoping to please the gods who would safeguard their livestock and harvest in return. It is also a festival of separation between summer and winter, the light and the dark. It was believed that the normal order of the universe is suspended during Samhain. The barrier between the physical world and the spirit world ceased to exist during this day, which allowed for communication between humans and spirits.

To avoid the spirits, Celts disguised themselves in costumes that consisted of animal heads, skins, and horns so that spirits would consider them fellow supernatural beings and not humans. Animals were sacrificed to please the Celtic deities, and people used to take coals from the central fire of bonfires to light their hearths.

In the 7th century, Pope Boniface IV created All Saints Day, which a century later was moved to November 11 — it acted as a Christian substitute to Samhain. Before the saintly celebration was observed on the day of All Hallows Eve or Halloween. From Celtic regions, the holiday started to spread to other places. By the 1800s, the fall festival which marked the seasonal harvest started to have Halloween elements and Irish immigrants, who were escaping the Potato Famine, brought many Halloween traditions to America, which popularised this festival.


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