A Spooky Article About What Makes Halloween So Green
So often revered for its celebration of the spiritual boundary between life and death, many of Halloween’s customs and traditions rooted in the environment tend to be overlooked. Dating back more than 2,000 years, Halloween began as a commemoration of the Celtic New Year, or Samhain, meaning “summers end” in Celtic. For tribes of farmers, October 31 signaled the end of the harvest and the onset of the dark and ominous winter.
The macabre part of the story, so familiar to modern Western culture today, derives from the Celtic belief that on Samhain, the season of life met with the season of death, and thereby the dead could walk amongst the living. Two centuries of religious, political and social influence radically altered the original celebration, and as time went by, it added new meaning and practices that formed the concept of modern day Halloween.
Apart from Halloween’s origins as a holiday centered on the harvest, many other nature-related connections can be found in aspects of its celebration. As a child, the excitement of bobbing for apples at a Halloween party might seem like nothing more than another seasonal game, playfully making use of the delicious fruit at the peak of its harvest. This entertaining use of apples however, goes far beyond the temporal and reaches into the depths of history and environmental mythology.
By 43 A.D., when the Roman Empire had conquered most of the Celtic territory, Roman and Celtic traditions were fused together, and the Roman festival to honor Pomona, the goddess of fruit and trees, was combined with the celebration of Samhain. Notably, historians credit the environmental goddess, whose symbol was an apple, for the incorporation of apples into Halloween and for the tradition of bobbing for apples.
Other than apples, turnips and potatoes also came to be a popular part of Halloween in Ireland. These vegetables were carved and made into jack-o’-lanterns to frighten away evil spirits. Once Halloween reached the shores of America however, the pumpkin, indigenous to Central America, took over the role as the prime vegetable to fashion jack-o’-lanterns. Halloween’s deep connection with the land is evident with the holiday’s use of food from the harvest.
The harvest, or lack there of, can also be attributed to the dissemination of Halloween throughout the world. In the late 19th century, Ireland experienced much hardship and suffering from its now infamous potato famine, and consequently millions of Irish people came to the United States to seek refuge. With them they brought their customs and traditions, including that of Halloween. An eerie foundation for the spread and popularization of a tradition meant to commemorate the end of the harvest.
Please leave a comment below to share other connections that you have discovered between Halloween and the environment. Happy Halloween!