Halloween – How it All Started

The history of Halloween is as old as its name sounds. There’s no definite answer to its first origin. All that is there are estimates and relations between events which almost looked alike. The name is estimated to come to life in the 16th century from the Scottish in full named All-Hallows-Even, which means The Night before. It came from the Celts who live in where is now known as Ireland in the United Kingdom. The Celtic people celebrated a new year on 1st November. To them, this day marked the end of the harvest period and beginning of the dark period, or the winter season. The winter season was associated with high number of deaths due to the cold. The Celts believed that at the night between 31st October and the 1st November, the world of those who had died and the ones living became blurred. The Celtic festival named it Samhain, which was a time to when people would wear costumes and light bonfires to ward of ghosts.

During Samhain, the Celts believed that the spirits of the once living came back to earth and would cause all kinds of trouble which often included causing damage to crops out of jealousy and anger. They also believed that in the presence of the ghosts, the priest’s would be able to predict the future and that would help them plan for the long dark winter since individually, they were powerless human beings who lived in a volatile natural world. The prophecies gave them hope for the future and made them feel comfortable and secure during the winter. To remember the event, the Celtics would light large sacred bonfires. They would burn animal sacrifices and crops as sacrifice to the Celtic deities. They would wear costumes during the event which consisted of animal skins and heads. While around the fire, they would tell each other fortune stories to reassure themselves and give them courage to live on.

The Roman Empire then came and conquered Celtic territory and ruled them for a period of more than four centuries. With them, they came with their own cultures and traditions, which some, were to latter join with the Celtics. One of this was Feralia, which came in late October, a period in which the Romans commemorated the passing of the dead. The other event that came to join Samhain was Promona, who was their goddess of fruits and trees and it was symbolized with an apple. Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Pantheon in Rome in honour of Christian martyrs and the catholic feast of all martyrs was formed. Pope Gregory 111 expanded the event to cover all martyrs and saints and moved the event from May 13th and designated 1st November as a time to honour them and it became to be known as all saints. All saints day integrated Samhain, and therefore the day before was known as “All hallows” eve and latter came to be known as Halloween.

Americans got the influenced with the Irish and other immigrants who fled to their country due to famine and also during the colonial rule. They adopted the tradition and begun wearing costumes and held parties to make a good harvest period as they also welcomed the winter. Kids would go house to house requesting for money or free gifts and if denied, they would make pranks and mischievous deeds, which to date are known as trick-or-treat.

Over time, Halloween became more and more secularized and has become more of a community based event where kids could come up with trick-or-treating, telling scary stories, watching horror films, attending costume parties, lighting bonfires, playing pranks among other social activities. All this make sense now from the history from the Celtics and Romans and also influenced by the Catholic church of the day as they tried to make a Christian meaning out of the day.

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