Halloween is a tradition that many of us have been aware of since we were young; people get dressed up in ‘scary’ costumes and the young ones go out trick or treating, games are played and parties are held… But where did it all come from?
I have been doing some research and what I found was quite interesting! Halloween originated with the ancient Celtic festival, known as Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts lived 2000 years ago, within the areas that are now known as Ireland, The United Kingdon and Northern France. The Celts celebrated their new year on the first of November as this was the date that not only marked the end of summer and the end of the Harvest but also marked the beginning of the cold, dark winter ahead of them, which was associated with high numbers of human deaths. It was believed that the night prior to the new year (October 31st), the boundaries between the world of the living and the world of the dead would be blurred and spirits would roam the earth. They celebrated Samhain on this date, Druids would build large bonfires and people would come together to burn crops and animals as a means of sacrifice to the Celtic Deities. The people would wear costumes which typically consisted of animal heads and skins. In addition to the sacrifices that the people would make during Samhain, they believed that the presence of the ghosts and spirits made it easier for Druids or Priests to make predictions about their future; and seeing as the Celts were dependant upon the natural world, these prophecies were a huge source of comfort for them.
Pope Gregory III designated the first of November as a time to honour all saints, soon becoming known as All Saints Day. This incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain, the evening before All Saints Day became known as All Hallows Eve and later, Halloween!
43 A.D, Romans took over the majority of Celtic territory, running Celtic land for around 400 years. During these years, the Romans incorporated some of their own traditions with the traditions of Samhain. This first tradition they combined, was Feralia. Feralia was celebrated by the Romans in late October, where they would commemorate the passing of the dead. The second was a day to honour Roman Goddess, Pomona, the goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple… which may be why people today take part in apple bobbing on Halloween!
But where does Trick or Treating come into all of this?
The tradition of costumes and Trick or Treating could have stemmed from a number of things! It could link back to ‘mumming’ or ‘guising’ in which people would disguise themselves and go around houses seeking food. It may also be related to ‘souling’, which came from Britain and Ireland, where poor people would go door-to-door on Hallowmas / All Saints Day (November 1st) asking for food in exchange of a prayer to the dead.
I find it very interesting to see how such things have evolved over the years and have been made into different kinds of traditions… I wonder how people will celebrate Halloween 2000 years from now? Will it be a story of the past, that no one celebrates, or will it be celebrated in a completely different way? I guess I will never know!
If you enjoyed this piece give it a like and a share and leave a comment in the section below! If you know of any other historical events which shaped the way we celebrate Halloween, please let me know as I would love to read about them!