Monday, December 6, 2021
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Halloween Through History

Much of Halloween’s history has focused on the Macabre
Much of Halloween’s history has focused on the Macabre

Candy, Jack-o-lanterns, costumes and pumpkin flavors are symbols of Halloween.

But some trick-or-treaters don’t know Halloween has an ancient and meaningful history that doesn’t include candy or zombies.

Halloween’s roots stretch further than a modern American holiday.

According to, Halloween traditions began roughly 2,000 years ago as a Celtic celebration called Samhain (pronounced sow-in).

Samhain was an important Pagan holiday.

The Celts lived in ancient Ireland, Britain and parts of Northern France. Samhain marked both the end of summer and the beginning of the Celtic new year.

The Celts believed that on Oct. 31, the eve of the new year, the boundary between the world of the living and the world of the dead became blurred, allowing spirits to revisit their former world.

On this night, Celtic priests, called Druids, made prophecies about the coming year.

Bonfires and sacrifices of crops and animals were made as offerings to the Celtic deities, while the Celtic people danced and sang in costume.

Samhain was about honoring ancestors, the harvest and celebrating the new year.

Centuries later, the political world changed and the Celtic people found themselves ruled by the Roman Empire.

Around the eighth century, the Roman Catholic Church made Nov. 1 All Saints’ Day, to honor saints without making individual holidays.

This was nicknamed All-Hallow’s Day, making Samhuin All-Hallows Eve.

Historians suspect the church wanted to replace the pagan celebration with a more “holy” holiday.

The church later made Nov. 1 All Soul’s Day, in remembrance of the dead. It was celebrated much like Samhain, with costumes, dancing and parties.

Over time, All-Hallows Eve became Hallowmas, which we now know today as Halloween.

Centuries later, when Europeans immigrated to America, they brought small bits of Halloween with them.

They meshed these traditions with Native American traditions to create festivities focused on the harvest, much like the Samhain of the past.

Communities came together to dance, sing and tell ghost stories. Costumes, pranks and mischief-making were popular.

The Irish brought with them the tradition of going door-to-door for food and money, which later became “trick-or-treating.”

Over the decades, Halloween spread throughout the country, becoming a popular holiday in many cities and communities, and beloved by children.

Today, Halloween is geared more toward young children and their families. Family-friendly activities like trick-or-treating have replaced superstitions and religious ceremonies of the past.

Witchcraft, ghosts and pranks were traded for games, food and festive costumes. Though many no longer have a harvest to celebrate, they still rejoice in the changing of seasons and the hope of things to come.

But if you want to celebrate Samhain the old-fashioned way, spread your Halloween festivities out over three days.

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