We all love to celebrate Halloween. Dressing up in costumes, parties, carving a pumpkin, trick or treating, we love it all. In fact we love it so much that Halloween has become one of the biggest holidays. Millions of people around the world each year all take part in the same traditions and have boatloads fun. However, did you ever ask yourself where all these traditions come from? Have you ever wondered what is the history of Halloween?
The history of Halloween is an old one. It goes back hundreds and thousands of years. In fact, the very word “Halloween” gives us a clue as to its history. “Halloween” is a corruption of “All Hallows Eve”. All Hallows Eve, in turn, is the day and night before two Christian hold days, All Saints Day and All Souls Day. So, the word “Halloween” basically means the day before the holy days. However, this doesn’t tell the whole history of Halloween. To get this full history, we have to look back even further.
On or around November 1st of our modern calendar, the ancient Celts celebrated one of their most important days, a festival they called Samhain. The word Samhain is pronounced “Sah-ween” and is still echoed by millions each year every time they the word “HalloWEEN”. Samhain was a harvest feast, but is was also a time when the Celts believed that the barrier between this world and world of the afterlife was the thinnest. They believed that on Samhain the spirits of the dead, and more terrible things, were able to walk abroad. To keep the worst of the otherworld away, they lit bonfires, set aside food for the dead and carved grotesque faces into gourds to scare the spirits away from their dwellings.
In an effort to stamp out what they saw as pagan beliefs, Christian church authorities made the day of Samhain and the day after into church holy days. However, the ancient beliefs still flourished and continue through today. Each year when you carve a pumpkin, you honor a tradition that goes back into antiquity.