There are several people who claim Halloween would be an American celebration brought over to Belgium and the Netherlands recently. Though, such days to honour or celebrate the dead has been around in these regions already for many centuries.
Early on, there were the Celts who remembered their dead. The festival of Samhain or Samain, in ancient Celtic religion, was and is still one of the most important and sinister calendar festivals of the year. It was first celebrated among the Celts of ancient Britain and Ireland.
The conversion to Christianity or to Christendom had inevitably a profound effect on the socio-religious system from the 5th century onward. The Roman Catholic Church was very handy in converting heathen people to their faith, by taking over many of the heathen festivals. In such way by the early 7th century the church had succeeded in relegating the druids to ignominious irrelevancy, while the filidh, masters of traditional learning, operated in easy harmony with their clerical counterparts, contriving at the same time to retain a considerable part of their pre-Christian tradition, social status, and privilege and incorporating all those Celtic festivals in West European Catholicism.
Pope Boniface IV liked the idea of such a dedication for those who died for his faith. When he dedicated the Pantheon in Rome as a church in honour of the Blessed Virgin and all martyrs in 609, the idea of taking November the 1st to remember the ‘saints’ got more favour all over Europe.
The first evidence for the November 1 date of celebration and of the broadening of the festival to include all saints as well as all martyrs occurred
During the reign of Pope Gregory III (731–741), a chapel in St. Peter’s, Rome, on November 1 got dedicated in honour of all saints. The Anglo-Latin poet, educator, and cleric Alcuin, as head of the Palatine school established by Charlemagne at Aachen, introduced the traditions of Anglo-Saxon humanism into Western Europe and in 800 established “All Saints’ Day” (or All Hallows’) on November 1. It also appeared in a 9th-century English calendar on that day. In 837 Pope Gregory IV ordered its general observance.
All Hallows or Halloween initiated the season of Allhallowtide, which lasts three days and concludes with All Souls’ Day. Originally it was a time the world of the gods was believed to be made visible to humankind, and the gods played many tricks on their mortal worshippers. For many it was the time of darkness coming over mankind. A time fraught with danger, charged with fear, and full of supernatural episodes. To please the gods sacrifices were made and it was taught that by clothing oneself in such a way that one could frighten the spirits and gods, they would be safe again for another year. Propitiations of every kind were thought to be vital, for without them the Celts and Early Europeans believed they could not prevail over the perils of the season or counteract the activities of the deities.
Dutch version / Nederlandstalige versie: Allhallowgetijde met Halloween, Allerheiligen en Allerzielen
Sequel: Dia de Los Muertos – Day of the dead
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