Happy Halloween! Send out spooky Halloween party invitations because it’s time for candy, costumes, craved pumpkins and Celts? That’s right, Halloween origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). Here is a little insight into this spookiest of holidays
The History & Origin Of Halloween
- The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1.
- This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter. Winter was the time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. Meaning spirits often roamed with earth with humans.
- On the night of October 31, they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth.
- Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter.
- To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities.
- The Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other’s fortunes. The costumes were said to help keep their human identities unknown to the spirits roaming the earth.
- When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.
- By A.D. 43, Romans had conquered the majority of Celtic territory. In the course of the four hundred years that they ruled the Celtic lands, two festivals of Roman origin were combined with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain.
- The first was Feralia, a day in late October when the Romans traditionally commemorated the passing of the dead.
- The second was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple and the incorporation of this celebration into Samhain seems to explain the tradition of “bobbing” for apples that is practiced in modern day Halloween celebrations.
- By the 800s, the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands. In the seventh century, Pope Boniface IV designated November 1 All Saints’ Day, a time to honor saints and martyrs. It is widely believed today that the pope was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related, but church-sanctioned holiday.
- The celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints’ Day) and the night before it, the night of Samhain, began to be called All-hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween.
- Even later, in A.D. 1000, the church would make November 2 All Souls’ Day, a day to honor the dead. It was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels, and devils.
- Together, the three celebrations, the eve of All Saints’, All Saints’, and All Souls’, were called Hallowmas.
It seems the origin of Halloween, dating back to Celtic rituals thousands of years ago, has long been associated with images of witches, ghosts, devils and hobgoblins. Over the years, Halloween customs and traditions have changed dramatically. Today, many children and adults alike, take a more light-spirited approach. Kids dress up in scary monster costumes or the signature outfit of the latest and greatest superhero while babies don little peapod costumes as they go door to door for treats. Scary haunted houses take temporary residence at malls and in basements and pumpkins are carved to be put out on our porch (check out our Little Known Pumpkin Facts and Trivia). All in the hopes that we get more Treats than Tricks for our All-hallows Eve.
Looking for more information on origin of Halloween? Check out our Halloween Trivia Tidbits article for some great Halloween facts!
(source: History Of Halloween- www.history.com)