Tuesday, June 16, 2015


   Every year it seems some organization or church group is on television protesting the observance of Halloween as evil or trying to replace it with some type of non-threatening, innocuous fall festival. These people seem genuinely concerned about all the Satan worship, ghouls, demon activity and the general evil theme of the holiday. While it's true that many modern Halloween practices and activities tend to run on the slightly evil side, the origins of Halloween are much less disturbing. To help sort out the truth from the Hollywood-generated, pseudo-Halloween reality of axe-wielding killers and virgin sacrifices, I've pulled together a brief history lesson and clarification of some common Halloween misconceptions. So lock your doors, light a candle and let's get started.

Satan, Witches, Candy and Other Halloween Misconceptions: Misconception #1
- Halloween is all about worshiping Satan

   Dating back more than 2,000 years, long before the influence of Christianity, the Celts observed Samhain (pronounced "Sow-en") during the evening of October 31st. Occurring on the eve of the Celtic New Year, Samhain represented a time when ghosts of the departed were allowed to roam the world harassing relatives, ruining crops and making general mischief. During this evening, Celtic priests (a.k.a the Druids) built great bonfires where people could offer sacrifices of crops or animals to honor the Druid deities. Some sources say that they may have worn animal heads or masks during the ceremony as an additional tribute.
   During a four hundred year period of Roman rule, beginning in about 43 C.E., the Celtic holiday of Samhain was merged with two Roman festivals. Feralia was observed in late-October to commemorate the passing of the dead and a second festival was devoted to honoring Pomona, the goddess of fruits and trees. During this period, Samhain was still observed by many Celts.

   With the emergence of Christianity in northern Europe during the 7th century, the church decided that the pagan holiday of Samhain could not continue. In an attempt to erase Samhain, Pope Boniface IV declared November 1st as All Saints Day; a time to honor saints and martyrs. The general historical consensus is that the Pope was trying to replace Samhain with a church-approved holiday. This new celebration was referred to as All Hallowmas, taken from its proper Middle English name Alholowmesse. Not quite ready to give up their ancient holiday, the Celts simply continued to observe Samhain on the eve of Alholowmesse, which came to be known as Alholowmesse Eve and much later Halloween.
     In a second attempt to eliminate Samhain during the 11th century, the church declared November 2nd as All Souls Day which honored the departed. Celebrated with bonfires and costumes, All Souls Day bore a striking resemblance to the Celtic Samhain and inadvertently created a three-day celebration which was referred to as Hallowmas.
   What does all of this history teach us? Halloween seems to have evolved from an ancient Pagan holiday which had nothing to do with Satan.

Satan, Witches, Candy and Other Halloween Misconceptions: Misconception #2
 - Pagans worship Satan.

   Although there is no generally accepted definition of the word pagan, most people will agree that its origin lays in the Latin word paganus. Unfortunately, to further muddy the water, there is no precise definition of paganus before the 5th century. One theory offers that it was used by early Christians as a slur against uneducated people who held fast to old Roman or Greek polytheistic beliefs and were considered to be "hicks" or "country bumpkins" in today's terms.

   In about the 3rd century, the term pagan was used to describe any non-christian, which opened the door for the possibility of Satan worship. This seems like an odd assumption, as most pagans consider Satan to be the dark side of Christianity; a concept that would not likely be included in pagan beliefs.

 Satan, Witches, Candy and Other Halloween Misconceptions: Misconception #3
 - "Trick or Treating" is all about ghouls, demons and witches.

  During the Celtic Samhain celebration, people were sometimes reluctant to leave their home, for fear of being recognized by all the ghosts milling about. To avoid being harassed by these spirits, people wore masks or costumes so they might be mistaken for a fellow ghost. They would also leave food and wine by the road to appease the spirits and keep them from trying to enter the home.

   Early English All Souls Day celebrations included parades, dressing up like saints or angels and the practice of giving food to the poor. In return for this handout, the poor promised to pray for the deceased relatives of the giver. This practice was widely encouraged by the church as a way to replace the pagan practice of leaving food for roaming spirits. Over time, this ritual was taken over by children and helped create today's Halloween tradition, as well as a yearly spike in candy sales.
   It seems that the present day tradition of "Trick or Treating" seems to be a combination of many ancient pagan and church rituals, rather than some satanic mischief-making activity.


Image result for royal highland show 2015

   The Royal Highland Show is Scotland’s leading outdoor event showcasing all that’s best in farming, food and countryside.
   The 2015 show - June 18th to the 21st - will be the 176th and the 55th to be held at Ingliston, near Edinburgh. It regularly attracts over 175,000 visitors with the 2010 attendance breaking all records at 187,644.
   Sponsored by The Royal Bank of Scotland, the show is one of the country’s most iconic and historic brands, mixing serious agri-business with fun, music and entertainment. For 2011, host area the Borders will feature food, textiles, heritage, countryside and visitor attractions from the region.

   Look out too for the Countryside Area, Forestry Arena, Agri-Trade Area, Children’s Discovery Centre, Outdoor Living Area, Motor Zone, Equestrian Village, Renewables Section, Food and Drink Hall, Shopping Arcade, Honey Marquee and Handcrafts Pavilion...not to mention 5000 of the UK’s finest cattle, sheep, goats and horses plus competitions, demonstrations and loads of all-action features! “The Greatest Show


   Although the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland was established in 1784, it wasn’t until December 1822 that it held its first show at Queensberry House in Edinburgh’s Canongate when according to The Scotsman newspaper "...between sixty and seventy five cattle were exhibited." There were also eight New Leicester sheep and "two beautiful pigs."

   Around 1000 members and public attended that first event held on a site adjacent to today’s Scottish Parliament. Gate takings were just over £52, seemingly sufficient to cover overheads.
It’s a far cry from those humble beginnings in the 19th century to the present Royal Highland Show where there’s up to 5000 head of livestock, attendances of around 170,000 and costs associated with staging the event approaching £1.5 million.
   Following the inaugural event, the show became a fixture in Edinburgh and Glasgow before moving to Perth in 1829, thereby beginning the tradition of itinerant shows that was to last 130 years before the first “Highland” was held on the permanent site at Ingliston in 1960. The 2010 show is the 170th to be staged.

   During the late 19th and into the 20th century, the show had begun to take on more of a semblance of its modern day equivalent with agricultural implements being exhibited, livestock classes open to breeders from other parts of the UK and prizes for the likes of butter and cheese.
   Since moving to Ingliston, however, the show has developed beyond recognition and is now internationally recognised as an annual celebration of Scottish farming, food and countryside, attracting an audience far beyond its farming roots - a showcase of all that’s good about Scotland.

Royalty and The Royal Highland Show

   By the early and mid 19th century, the Highland and Agricultural Society was a much revered national institution enjoying the patronage of many of Scotland’s dukes and earls, landowners, agricultural pioneers and the Royal family
   In 1859, the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII, seventeen years old and a student at Edinburgh University, twice visited the Edinburgh showyard. In 1872 Queen Victoria expressed a desire to be enrolled as an ordinary member and in 1894, the Duke of York, the future George V, visited the Aberdeen show as President of Society.
   Various members of the Royal family have served as Presidents of the Society, have been awarded Honorary Membership or have visited the Royal Highland Show.

   The title Royal was bestowed at Inverness show in 1948 by King George VI, father of the current Patron, Her Majesty The Queen.
   The 2010 Royal Highland Show has set a new attendance record of 187,644 - an increase of more than 11,000 on last year’s record of 176,522.
   The show, which closed on Sunday night, recorded increased visitor numbers on all four days including an all time daily high of 57,754 on Saturday.

   Show Manager David Dunsmuir said: “We are absolutely thrilled with these figures. Although the fine weather and a focused publicity campaign were obvious influences, there is more to it than that. Our core aim is to showcase the farming and food industry and by combining that with an associated programme of entertainment and activity, we have a formula that is obviously appealing to both our specialist audience and the general public.
   “Staging an event of this magnitude takes a huge effort. Exhibitors, trade organisations and staff all played their part and deserve a pat on the back, but major thanks go to the public who came in their droves. ”

Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs Richard Lochhead commented: “This has undoubtedly been one of the most successful Royal Highland Shows of all time. The food and farming sectors appear to be weathering the recession better than many other industries and there has been a real feel good factor this year.
   “The visits from the EU Agriculture Commissioner and Chairman of the European Parliament’s Agricultural Committee speak volumes for Scotland’s reputation as a land of food and drink. It proves beyond doubt that we are driving forward the debate on CAP and influencing and shaping change. ”
Individual daily attendances were as follows (2009 figures in parentheses): Thursday 39,891 (38,506) Friday 47,885 (47,714) Saturday 57,754 (51,307) Sunday 42,114 (38,995).

   The 2011 Royal Highland Show will be held on June 23 -26. The show, at the Royal Highland Centre, Ingliston, will once again be sponsored by The Royal Bank of Scotland who last week announced a new five year sponsorship package.