Halloween is an annual celebration that falls on October 31. It is a day filled with ghost, ghouls, superstitions, and lots of candy! Halloween has deep roots in history dating back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. November 1st marked the end of the summer harvest and the beginning of winter. This transition marked the dawn of a new year. It was their belief that the night before the New Year blurred the boundary between the living and the dead. The return of the dead to earth was celebrated, as the Celts believed that the ghosts made it easier for their priests and Druids to make predictions about the future. In celebration the Celts would ordain themselves in costumes and rejoice around bonfires attempting to predict one another’s fortunes. As the Roman Empire took over the Celtic territory the Celtic and Roman festivals began to merge. This Celtic Samhain tradition and the Roman festivals Feralia – a day that commemorates the passing of the dead, and Pomona – a day to honor the Roman goddess of fruit and trees became one.
As the Christian religion began to emerge in Celtic lands so did a new tradition – likely created to replace the festival of the dead – a church-sanctioned day that celebrates the dead was fashioned. As a result All Souls was born. The The celebrations were similar to those of Samhain with bonfires and costumes (as saints, angels and devils). All Saints Day sometimes referred to as All-hallows of All-hallowmas, and the night before that (the night of Samhain) was referred to as All-Hallows Eve, eventually Halloween.
The Evolution of Halloween Traditions
The two most common traditions of modern day Halloween are trick-or-treating and dressing up. But where did these traditions first begin? Trick-or-treating began as way for families to protect their homes from the ghosts and ghouls roaming in the night. By leaving sweet treats on their doorsteps the ghosts would not be tempted to enter their homes. It then evolved as a way for poor citizens to beg for food. Families would give these people “soul cakes” in return for a promise that they would pray for their dead relatives. In recent years it has been viewed as a relatively inexpensive way for an entire community to share the Halloween celebration and prevent tricks being played on them by providing the neighborhood children with small treats. Dressing in costume was first used as a way to disguise oneself. Since it was believed that spirits would roam the streets, people were afraid of encountering them. To avoid being recognized they would wear masks when they left their homes after dark so that the ghost would mistake them for fellow spirits.
So beware of ghosts and goblins on Halloween night, you never know when you may encounter one. Hopefully your costume will be a good enough disguise. Muuaahhahahahaha!