Ever wonder how we began celebrating Halloween?
Here is an interesting story that tells how Halloween began.
The origins of today's celebrations on October 31st
and November 1st marked the beginning of the new year.
During this time, the crops were harvested to prepare food
for the long, dark winter.
October 31st also marked the eve of the ancient Celtic
festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-en). Samhain was a
joyful harvest festival that marked the death of the old
year and the beginning of a new one. The day itself was a
time for paying homage to the sun god Baal who had provided
the people with the ripened grain for use in the upcoming
The Samhain festival marked the transition from life to death,
and because the lives of the Celts were deeply intertwined
with nature, the death of the world around them became
associated with human death. During this time, it was believed
that the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead
were thinnest, and the living were able to communicate with
their deceased loved ones. Of course, if the spirits were
able to travel between the worlds on Samhain, so too could
hostile spirits. To scare these bad spirits away, the Celts
carved faces into potatoes and turnips and lit them with
candles. They also dressed up in ghoulish costumes and
paraded around their neighborhoods.
The word Halloween actually has its origins in the
Catholic Church. In the 7th century the church celebrated
All Saints' Day in May, but by the 9th century the date
had been changed to November 1st. Another name for
All Saints' Day was All Hallows'Eve, which was later
shortened to Halloween. In the 10th century the
church named November 2nd as All Souls' Day in memory
of all dead souls. Halloween, All Saints' Day, and
All Souls' Day come so close together and are so similar
that in some countries they tend to merge together.
Halloween didn't become widely celebrated in the
United States until the 1800s. Irish immigrants fleeing
their country's potato famine began settling in the U.S.,
and brought many of their customs with them. At the time,
the favorite pranks in New England included such benign
tricks as tipping over outhouses and unhinging fence gates.
Because the New World had an abundance of pumpkins, which
were more suitable as lanterns, they replaced turnips
and have become a major symbol of modern Halloween.
Trick or Treat: The custom of trick-or-treating
is thought to have originated with a 9th century European
custom called "souling." On November 2nd, All Souls' Day,
early Christians would walk from village to village begging
for "soul cakes," made of square pieces of bread with currants.
The more soul cakes the beggars would receive, the more
prayers they would promise to say on behalf of the donors'
relatives who had passed away.
Bobbing for Apples: When the Celts were absorbed
by the Roman Empire, many rituals of Roman origin began.
Among them was the worship of Pomona, the goddess of the harvest.
Pomona was often portrayed sitting on a basket of fruits and
flowers. Apples were the sacred fruit of the goddess, and many
games of divination involving them entered Samhain customs.
Jack-O-Lanterns: Irish children used to carve out
potatoes and turnips and light them for their Halloween
gatherings. As legend has it, these "lanterns" commemorated
Jack, a shifty Irish villain so wicked that neither heaven
nor the Devil wanted him. Rejected by both the sacred and profane,
he wandered the world endlessly looking for a place to rest,
his only warmth a glittering candle in a rotten potato.