The Origin of Halloween or All Hallows Eve are many with the oldest documented origin being the Celtic festival Samhain. The history of Halloween (Halloween Origin) was far different from todays candy Trick or Treat focus. Modern Halloween was originated by the Celtic/Druid Samhain festival then mixed with Roman and Christian customs before being modernized into what we have today.
Samhain - Origin of Halloween
The Celtic festival Samhain was also the Celtic New Year and means "summer’s end". On this day of the dead it is believed that the souls of the dead return to the living world for a short time.‘This day signified the beginning of dark and cold winter nights. Back in the times of crop harvesting and animal cattle dependence, this often signified harsh winters where human death was the outcome for many in a community. It is believed that this is why the Druids (Celtic pagans) believed that this is the night that those who died before would come back to visit the living on the special Samhain night. Druids celebrated Samhain with a great fire festival filled with bonfires that the Druids danced around. This was done to encourage the sun not to dim and vanish. Druid home doors were left open to encourage dead loved ones to visit the living relatives. Druids/Celts would wear animal heads and skins as costumes. Animal sacrifices and crops were burned during All Hallows Eve. Costumes were worn because it was believed that the returning spirits came back to the world of the living to be entertained by the living or possess a body for the upcoming year. The costumes were believed to deter the spirits from wanting to possess scary forms. Costumes included witches, ghosts and goblins.
Romans conjured the vast majority of Celtic territory by 43 AD and during the 400 years after blended their customs with the Celtic Samhain. The Roman festivals Feralia (celebration of the passing of the dead) and the day to honor Roman Goddess Pomona (Roman Goddess of fruits and trees) were incorporated into Halloween. "Bobbing for apples" is thought to have been originated from the Pomona festival.
When Christianity was converting local people to the Christian religion, the Roman Catholic Church would incorporate order religion holidays into modified holidays in order to make the transition easier for new followers. Pope Gregory IV originally wanted to change Samhain to All Saints Day (originally celebrated on May 13, now changed to Nov. 1) in 835 but All Souls’ Day (Nov. 2) was closer to Halloween making it and similar. A French monastery first instituted Halloween in 998 where it quickly spread throughout Europe. In the 16th century, Christian village children celebrated the All Saints’ Day vigil by conducting the Danse Macabre (Dance of Death). The seventh chapter of the deuterocanonical book of Second Macabees tells of the gruesome deaths of The Seven Brethren which many believe also contributed to children dressing up in scary costumes as a remembrance of these deaths.
Modern day Halloween in the United States resulted from European immigrants bringing over their various Halloween customs. Trick-or-Treat was soon originated in America. In the 1950’s leaders changed to Halloween tradition to focus on the youth in order to limit crime. This is why many people feel they are too old to Trick or Treat today and candy is the main goal of Halloween as a reward. Hope you enjoyed the History of Halloween.
Trick or Treat Song
- Trick or treat, smell my feet,
- give me something good to eat!
- If you don’t, I don’t care.
- I’ll pull down your underwear!
Happy Halloween Everyone!