history

Where does Halloween Come From?

Halloween is on the 31st of October every year and I think a lot of us take it for granted that it is just about trick or trick or some cool Halloween horror movies. But what are the origins of Halloween?

Where does it come from?

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As you probably know, Halloween dates back to a long time ago. Over 2000 years to be in fact when the Celts started celebrating the 31st. This was the day before their new year and it was called Samhain. This day was prolific because it was the day before the start of a very difficult winter. As a result, the Celts believed in sacrificing animals to the Deities to give them good will for the coming winter.

The Celts also believed that this was a day where the barrier between life and death was very thin. The veil that keeps the two worlds aside becomes thinner. Celts also believed that when the otherworldly spirits were there that it would mean that they could be better future tellers due to their influence. This was of huge importance to the Celts because during these hard times, they relied on these “prophecies” to get by.

To commemorate this huge celebration the Druids would put on animal heads and would hold huge bonfires.

As History.com mentions in 43 AD most of the Celt areas were conquered by the Roman Empire. Because this happened Samhain was combined into two Roman festivals.

Feralia is a day that the Romans would commemorate the passing of the dead and the second day was created to honor Pomona who was the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. But what does Pomona mean? It is the symbol of the apple and it incorporates the celebration of Samhain which one might consider this being where the bobbing for apples tradition came from.

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When the 9th Century arrived the spread of Christianity had gone to the Celtic lands where it was “blended” with older Celtic rites. November 2nd was the day that the church named the All Souls Day which was to honour the dead. A popular belief is that the church was replacing the Celtic’s festival of the dead with a more appropriate church-sanctioned holiday.

So where did the name come from?

Well All Souls Day was also celebrated like Samhaim with the big bonfires, the parades and the dressing up as angels or devils. The name originally was “All-hallows/All-hallowmass which is really cool because it comes from Middle English – Alholowmesse which means All Saints’ Day. The night before All Saints’ Day was All-Hallows Eve (which is what I mentioned above on the 31st of October). Eventually this became Halloween.

How did it come to America?

It didn’t just arrive to America. The Protestants didn’t really approve of the celebration and it was only in the Southern Colonies and Maryland that it was becoming popular. Halloween became a way for women to be more empowered in finding a husband. Different games like bobbing of the apple were played to try to find husbands. The first women to take a bite of the apple would wait for another man to take a bite of her apple and the idea was this could lead to a marriage.

By the beginning of the 20th century, the idea around Halloween began to change, and it was not regarded as a religious holiday anymore, but rather a holiday where children could have fun and celebrate. Trick-or-treating became popular because it was an inexpensive way for communities to spend time with their families, and by buying sweets you could stop children from giving you a trick.

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But now this doesn’t explain why people dressed up…

Okay, so put yourself back in the days where nobody knew very much and technology didn’t exist. No electricity, heated floors or antiseptic. Winter was a scary time – and paired with these ideas that ghosts and the dead could more easily come between worlds on the 31st of October, people got the idea that if they dressed up like the dead/ghosts, then maybe they would be left to live. Their disguises were a mean of survival and this eventually led to the tradition we have today of dressing up in costumes for Halloween.

If you want to read more you should check out this article here from the History channel. Credits to them for all this great info!

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