The Origins of Halloween
Halloween, also known as All Hollows’ Eve, is celebrated every year on October 31. This year, 2018, Halloween falls on a Wednesday. This holiday originated from the Celtic Festival of Samhain which means “summers end.” This holiday marked the end of the harvest and the summer. The Celtics believed that on this night the ghosts of the dead could return and they were welcomed. It was believed that these spirits could help priests make predictions and they would visit loved ones.
To celebrate this event there were huge bonfires built and crop and animal sacrifices were made to the spirits. Costumes were worn during this time that usually consisted of dead animals.
Once the celebration was over the fire, from the bonfire, was taken to homes and people would light their hearths with it. They believed that this would help protect them during the winter months.
After the Romans conquered the Celtic land, around 43AD, they did away with the old Celtic Festival of Samhain. Instead, they combined it with 2 Roman festivals, Feralia which commemorated the passing of the dead, and the festival to honor Pomona the Roman Goddess of fruits and trees.
By the early middle ages, many people were converting to Christianity. In 835AD, Pope Gregory IV substituted the Samhain holiday with All Saints’ Day. During the 16th century, Christian children began dressing up in scary costumes while performing Danse Macabre.
In 998AD, a French monastery instituted All Souls’ Day which more closely resembles Halloween as we know it today.
In the later part of the 19th century Europeans brought Halloween to the United States. By the 1930’s many traditions had been combined and the holiday became more mainstream. Communities had to quickly scale back most Halloween activities due to vandalism and violence. Another factor that caused Halloween festivities to be removed was the breakout of WWII and the sugar rationing.
The Halloween that so many of us have come to know and celebrate today didn’t come around until the 1950’s, during the time of the baby boom. At that time, there were so many children, larger parties needed to be thrown to accommodate them all. This led to more community involvement and a greater interest in the festivities.
Today, Halloween can be a fun and exciting holiday that people of all ages can enjoy. Hopefully, you have already begun to decorate your homes and carve your pumpkins. It won’t be long until All Hollows’ Eve is upon us.