Why is the Pumpkin the Primary Symbol of Halloween?

Halloween Pumpkin

Halloween is a holiday with deep roots. Its traditions can be traced back hundreds of years. In its modern form, this holiday is a blend of Celtic New Year's customs, the Roman veneration of Pomona, the goddess of fruits, and the Christian All Saints' Day.

The Celtics celebrated New Year's on November 1st, when the period of sunny days came to an end and the period of cold and darkness began. On October 31st, when the harvest was collected and stored away for the cold winter months, the hearths in every house were put out.

The druids would gather at hilltops in oak forests, light a bonfire and dance around it. When morning came, they would bring the fire to each house by torch and the townsfolk would once again light their fireplaces. It was believed that fire was holy and protected the home from evil spirits. The New Year was met with festivities, starting November 1 and continuing for 3 days.

To chase away any malevolent spirits, the Celtics would put on leather hides from animals they had killed and use carved out pumpkins to light their way.

During the 1st century A.D., the Romans invaded Britain, bringing with them many of their own customs and beliefs to Celtic lands. One of these traditions was the holiday dedicated to the goddess Pomona, which was observed on November 1. Over time, these 2 holidays merged into 1.

The rapidly spreading Christianity also left its mark.

Halloween

On 835, November 1 was declared by the Roman Church as All Hallows' (Saints) Day.

Years later, November 2 was also declared a holy day by the church, a day when the people paid their respects to all those who had died. On that day, they would light fires and put on masks depicting saints, angels and demons. The Christian celebrations thus merged with local Celtic beliefs.

The descendants of the Celts continued to celebrate New Year's and the Day of Pomona on October 31. The holiday was called All Hallows' Eve, from there evolving to today's name for it - Halloween.

As such, Halloween in its present form is a mixture of the elements of these 3 traditions. The characteristic candied apples are linked to Pomona, the carved out jack o' lanterns have to do with Celtic New Year and the ghosts originate from the Day of the Dead traditions. It's a fun time of year, especially for children, who walk the streets dressed in scary costumes and trick or treat for candy.

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