At this time of year, we are inundated with marketing campaigns about Halloween, almost in unison with the excitement of the upcoming Christmas season. We already see advertisements, shelves full of decorations in decoration shops, bazaars full of costumes, pumpkins in supermarkets… the list is long, but do we understand the origin, or do we just consume? I wanted to make a blog post about the origin of the most important traditional festivals. It is curious that some of the acquired traditions we have are quite recent and some are even based on literary figures from no more than a couple of centuries ago.
The origins of Halloween go back over 3,000 years, according to Oxford University, when the Celtic peoples of Europe celebrated their new year, called Samhain, on what we now consider to be the 1st of November.
Named ‘Halloween’ from the contraction of the expression “All Hallows Eve”.
During this celebration, the so-called Samhain festival, it was believed that the dead descended to the real world, to the mortal plane to visit the living. The ancient Celts disguised themselves as the dead by wearing masks and using decorations and props that simulated the personification of the dead, believing that, if they disguised themselves as the dead, if they encountered an evil spirit it would not attack or harm them, as it would believe it to be one of them. Hence the Halloween tradition of dressing up in costume.
And while we’re at it, why is the pumpkin the symbol of Halloween?
In this case, we owe the influence to Washington Irving and his 1820 story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, in which a headless horseman rides nightly in search of his lost head, using a pumpkin instead.
We are not going to talk about the origin of Christmas “per se”, but we are going to talk about the origin of giving presents at this time of year.
It is said that the exchange took place at the time of the foundation of Rome, and before Christmas there was the Feast of Saturn, which included the celebration of Saturn, the god of grain, and was celebrated between 17 and 24 December. On these dates it was customary to exchange fruits and seeds among adults and small gifts made of wood for children.
It was Pope Julius I who, around 1600 years ago, chose 25 December to celebrate the birth of Christ. In this way it is said that Christmas came about to replace the celebration of Saturn, preserving the exchange of “gifts”.
The Christian community claims that this noble tradition has its origins in the New Testament scriptures. According to the Bible, after the birth of Jesus, the three wise men arrived in Bethlehem with a series of offerings and gifts for the new king of the Jews: frankincense, gold and myrrh. That is why in some Anglo-Saxon countries the gift-giving takes place on 6 January, as a reminder of the deed that these characters performed.
The first use of the term “Black Friday” was given, not to refer to Christmas shopping, but in relation to an economic crisis: on Friday 24 September 1869, two ruthless Wall Street financiers, Jay Gould and Jim Fisk, after working hard to make huge profits, failed in their efforts, and the market went bankrupt. As a result, the day became known as “Black Friday”.
Another story that accompanies the term “Black Friday” has to do with the role of small shops in the market. Tradition has it that after a whole year of losses (i.e. in the red), finally, after Thanksgiving, the Christmas season arrived, the day from which profits began, and with them, instead of red numbers, “black numbers” were produced.
Others claim its origin dates back to 19 November 1975, when the New York Times first coined the adjective “black” to refer to the traffic disruption and chaos in New York City that year due to the post-Thanksgiving day discounts.
There is another “legend or myth” about the origin of this day, which indicates that the name comes from the fact that the day after Thanksgiving the slave traders sold slaves at a discount and it has been claimed that this tradition is directly related to the beginning of slavery in the United States, but as we say… this theory is a myth.
Valentine’s Day, also known as Valentine’s Day, on 14 February, is a day when millions of couples around the world give each other flowers and write each other phrases swearing eternal love. However, its origin is not very clear.
Some historians place the origin of Valentine’s Day in ancient Rome, in the celebration of the lupercalia, also called lupercalia. The word is supposedly derived from lupus (wolf), an animal representing the god Faunus, who took the nickname Lupercus, and hircus, for the goat, an impure animal. The acolytes would gather in a sacred cave and, according to tradition, the priest would sacrifice a goat, after which the children would go out into the street to whip the women with the animal’s skin to encourage their fertility.
The origin of the story of the character of Valentine is in 3rd century Rome, when Christianity was beginning to spread. At that time the Emperor Claudius II the Gothic ruled, and he passed a law prohibiting young men from marrying so that they could join the army. Disagreeing with this law, a young priest named Valentinus decided to defy the emperor’s ban and began to secretly perform marriages between young lovers, as well as converting many to Christianity and assisting prisoners before they were tortured and executed.
After being discovered, Valentinus was arrested and confined in a dungeon, where the officer in charge of his custody challenged him to restore the sight of his daughter Julia, who had been born blind. The young priest accepted the challenge and in the name of God restored the young girl’s sight, thereby converting the officer and his entire family to Christianity. Despite the miracle, Valentine remained imprisoned, and on 14 February 269 he was stoned and beheaded. Legend has it that Valentine, in love with Julia, sent a farewell note to the girl in which he signed it: “From your Valentine”, hence the Anglo-Saxon expression used to sign love letters: “From your Valentine”. Julia gratefully planted an almond tree which bore beautiful pink blossoms beside the grave of her beloved, hence the symbolism of this tree to express lasting love and friendship.
What is your favourite holiday? What traditions do you have?