Copyright 2008 Dana Cormaney
Around the first millennium, the world as we knew it was dominated by pagans. They were people, who like the Celts before them, worshiped natural spirits (gods ruling natural forces) and who were not part of an organized or formal religion. On the rise across the world was a new religious movement known as Christianity. The Christians were opposed to the Pagan lifestyle and wanted to conquer anything “non-Christian”. The Christians believed that the gods and spirits worshiped by the Pagans were demonic and belonging to a world opposed to God and his teachings. The long attempted process of majority conversion from Paganism to Christianity began.
By 50 A.D. the Romans had conquered much of northern Europe and the Celtic territories. It was during the course of their 400 years of rule that Samhain merged with several Roman festivals, giving us the basic Halloween traditions we still celebrate loosely today.
Romans honored their dead with several festivals. Paternalia was observed in February. It was a private and family oriented affair where people honored dead loved ones by visiting their graves and tombs and offering them food, flowers and gifts. It was followed by Feralia, a public festival intended to give peace to the dearly departed, and celebrated on February 21st at the end of the Roman year. On this evening, people made sacrifices and offered prayers for the dead. The final festival took place in May, was called Lemuria and was celebrated by early Romans. It lasted three days and was to appease the ghosts who died without surviving family.
The Romans also celebrated their own type of harvest festival called Pomona. This gay evening festival was dedicated to Pomona, the goddess of orchards and the harvest (or gardens and fruits) and it occurred around November 1st. As a tribute to the goddess for a bountiful harvest, the ancient Romans celebrated by feasting and enjoying wines. They also offered nuts and fruits, particularly apples to their goddess. For thousands of years, apples have been considered a symbol of love and fertility. Our modern tradition of apple bobbing or “snapping” on Halloween stems from Pomona festivities.
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Content compiled from the books New Standard Encyclopedia, Secrets of the New Age from Bell Publishing Company 1989, Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits (First and Second Editions) by Rosemary Ellen Guiley, The Big Book of Halloween: Creative & Creepy Projects for Revellers of All Ages by Laura Dover Doran, The Pagan Book of Halloween by Gerina Dunwich, and the The Pagan Mysteries of Halloween by Jean Markale. Also the History Channel video presentation “The Haunted History Of Halloween”. History Channel Hallowmas, Halloween, New Advent, Spookshows, Haunted Museum, All About The Occult, Essortment, History of the Ouija Board, Candy Corn, Candy Corn, Champaign Almanac, Support Unicef, Anoka, Minnesota, The Word Detective, WebIndia123.com, City of Detroit Angels Night, Devil’s Night, and Halloween: Facts and Misinformation web sites.