2012-10-19 / Columnists

The Symbol Of Black Cats And Halloween

By Dr. Jay Rogoff & Dr. Susan Whittred - Special To The Wave

Ever wonder why black cats are associated with Halloween? Search into the origins of Halloween to find the answer.

Halloween means All Hallow’s Eve, because it’s the night before All Hallow’s Day, also known as All Saints’ Day. In Scotland, evening is pronounced e’en which, when paired with Hallow, sounds like Hallow e’en or the common Halloween. It seems Halloween stems from the ancient Celts who lived in the British Isles. Most of the inhabitants of Ireland, Scotland and Wales are of Celtic origin. It was common for them to celebrate a religious festival on October 31, called Samhain (pronounced sow-in). At the time the festival marked the end of summer and beginning of winter.

When Christianity replaced pagan religion, the definition of a day also changed from sunset to sunset to the current midnight to midnight. This cut Samhain in half, leaving only the evening portion on October 31. It then follows that over time when November 1 became All Hallow’s Day, the old Samhain holiday became known as Halloween and this is why it’s celebrated mainly at night.

Another interesting fact that was uncovered by the staff at the Animal Hospital of the Rockaways while researching Halloween was that on October 31, according to Celtic belief, the wall between the physical world and the spirit world was lowered, which allowed spirits to return. People during that era wore costumes to protect their true identity from the spirits and to scare the spirits away. That tradition is still carried on today. We are holding a best pet costume on our facebook page. You can upload a photo of your pet in its Halloween costume and the animal that gets the most votes wins a $25 gift certificate for its owner and the runner up a $10 gift certificate. Please post your animals on the Animal Hospital of the Rockaways facebook page to enter.

It seems that black cats became associated with Halloween because cats are nocturnal and, particularly true of black cats, at night you only see the glow of their yellow or green eyes. Because of this, they seemed to be a perfect match for a somewhat scary night-time holiday. Black cats have also had the unfortunate connection to superstition as well as their supposed association with witches, so that this belief, in medieval times, led people to even kill black cats.

So, why is the black cat associated with Halloween? It seems that due to false beliefs stemming back to ancient times and the color of their fur and eyes, the black cat became the unfortunate victim of circumstance.

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