Have you ever thought of the origins of Halloween, where and why it all began as well and why we celebrate it in the United States the way we do? I have compiled what I believe, to be some very fascinating facts about the evolution of how Halloween came to be what it is today.
(This will be my last off-topic post here for a while. I prefer to focus on the history of true haunted locations and the experiences the living are having with the paranormal and the how and why of it all.)
The Earliest Origins
It began approximately 2,000 years ago, the ancient Celtic festival of “Samhain,” marked a new year for the area of what is now Ireland, the U.K. and Northern France. The celebration marked the end of the summer season, the death of the harvesting period and beginning of winter. It took place on November 1st. This was also the time of year human death tolls increased.
The Celts believed that on October 31, ghosts of the deceased returned to earth to cause trouble and damage crops. The belief of the time was that these spirits communicated with the priests during this time period and helped them better predict the future which gave them great comfort.
The Priests (called Druids), would mark the celebration by gathering with the Celts and burning crops and animals as an offering for the spirits. They would adorn animal heads and skins during the celebration and attempt to contact these spirits and communicate the future of those around them. They would continue the celebration in front of their own hearths by lighting them from the sacred bonfire. Their belief was that it would help protect them during the long winter months.
How the Rule of the Roman Empire Changed This Celebration
The Celtic territory was conquered by the Roman Empire by 43 A.D. and during the 400 year rule, the Roman festivals of “Feralia,” the celebration of the passing of the dead and “Pomona,” the celebration of the Goddess of fruit and trees were combined with the Celtic celebration, which is most likely where bobbing for apples comes into play.
The Catholic Church Gets Involved
According to History.com, “On May 13, 609 A.D., Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Pantheon in Rome in honor of all Christian martyrs, and the Catholic feast of All Martyrs Day was established in the Western church. Pope Gregory III (731–741) later expanded the festival to include all saints as well as all martyrs, and moved the observance from May 13 to November 2.” The church later dedicated November 1st as “All Souls Day,” also referred to as, ” All-hallows,” or “All-hallowmas,” in the year 1000. Once it became a church holiday, people celebrated in similar ways as the Celts did but the costumes extended to include saints, angels and devils.
Halloween in America
Halloween was celebrated by the Pioneers in Maryland and areas south much more than the New England area due to Protestant beliefs. As the beliefs of the Europeans came together with the Indians, the celebrations came to include gatherings where the attendees would celebrate the harvest by telling stories of the dead and each others’ fortunes and incorporated singing and dancing.
Halloween as we know it today came about nationally during the 1800’s with the influx of Irish Immigrants. Irish and English traditions meshed together and people would dress up and go house to house asking for money or food.
By the beginning of the 20th century there was a movement to make it a national holiday centered more around neighborhood gatherings and away from celebrating pranks, witchcraft and ghosts. Leaders and newspapers spread the word that they wanted all things scary removed from the holiday’s celebrations.
Between the 1920’s-1950’s the older practices of celebrating Halloween were embraced once again. Families believed they could prevent tricks being played on them by passing out candy to the small children.
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Thank you for stopping by,
- History.com – Topics on Halloween
- Live Science.com
- Picture from Overthebigmoon.com
Rachel Lavern said:
I wrestle a bit with Halloween. I enjoy the things that go along with Halloween celebrations: bonfires, pumpkins, apple bobbing, costume parties, the candy. But as a Christian, I need to also keep in mind that all of those things have their roots in pagan and godless traditions. I am not saying that all of these things are evil, but one should be wise and understand where these things come from and act in wisdom.
Celtic folklore and mythology is the source for the origin of Halloween as we know it today. They observed a festival called Samhain that is the root of what we know today. Samhain was a time of festive gatherings and the Druids and others who followed their religion believed it was a time for encounters with supernatural powers.
Children and poor people would go door to door and sing and say prayers for the dead in exchange for breads and cakes. To protect themselves from evil spirits, the Celts would disguise themselves-wearing costumes to make them look like spirits.
The devil is brilliant at desensitizing us to evil. He works through culture to make things that are wrong acceptable.
Okay…I step down from my soapbox now 🙂
Rachel recently posted The 16 Habits of Highly Unsuccessful Entrepreneurs
Rachel, I’m not sure if this helps your struggle at all but I did also see this when researching Halloween’s evolution: “According to History.com, “On May 13, 609 A.D., Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Pantheon in Rome in honor of all Christian martyrs, and the Catholic feast of All Martyrs Day was established in the Western church. Pope Gregory III (731–741) later expanded the festival to include all saints as well as all martyrs, and moved the observance from May 13 to November 2.” The church later dedicated November 1st as “All Souls Day,” also referred to as, ” All-hallows,” or “All-hallowmas,” in the year 1000. Once it became a church holiday, people celebrated in similar ways as the Celts did but the costumes extended to include saints, angels and devils.” Thank you for stopping by and for your comment. I appreciate it.
Great read! I had no idea about any of this.
Bre, I knew there was an “All Saints Day” and it was once a celebration of the dead but I didn’t know any of this either until I researched it today. Thanks for reading.
Amar Naik said:
thanks for sharing this. happy UBC 🙂
Thank you for stopping by Amar. Much appreciated.
Thank you for the visit Amar.
thank you for sharing your insights on the origins of Halloween. I noticed your post as I was scrolling through UBC today and it resonated because that’s the subject of my post today…sorry about that! I like the way you’ve laid the information for us to easily follow. I expect many people don’t know the origins of Halloween and personally I find it really interesting to find out where these traditions come from. Information post, thank you!
Thank you Andrea. I love that we were thinking alike. 😉 Happy Halloween!