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All Hallows Eve: The History of Halloween

Halloween is one of the most celebrated holidays in the United States, Canada and other countries throughout the world today. The history of Halloween can be traced back to Celts and Druids in what is now known as the United Kingdom, Ireland and some parts of France. During those early times many pagan festivals were held.

These Celts and Druids celebrated the start of their year on November 1st which also signified the end of summer in this region.  The “lighter” half of the year ended as the “darker” half was about to begin. This also meant the end of the harvest season. Celtic people believed that on November 1st, the barrier to the real world and the spirit world weakens allowing the spirits to be able to cross over to the real world. The spirits of the dead create havoc and confusion in the real world which is why Celts celebrate pagan festivals to keep the spirits of the dead at bay through sacrificial ceremonies and fire.

“Samhain” was celebrated the night before November 1st. The night of October 31st was the best time for Celtic people to keep the dead spirits from returning to the real world and causing mischief. Meanwhile the Druid priests relied on these spirits to help them prophesize the future. Celts celebrated Samhain by offering up some of their crops to please the dead spirits.

Celts built fires where they offered up their sacrifices to the Celtic deities to insure protection from the dead spirits. They wore animal costumes and attempted to foresee the future of each other. When Rome invaded and took over their land, Samhain was integrated with two other Roman festivals. Halloween history began to take closer shape to what we now celebrate worldwide.

Christianity refers to the the period of November 1-November 2 as All Saints Day and refers to the night before as All Hallows Eve.  The night signified the last day for the dead spirits to gain their revenge on those that wronged them before passing on to the next world.  To protect themselves from these spirits, those in the real world would disguise themselves with masks and costumes.  Today, this has lead to our tradition of fanciful costumes on Halloween night.

Halloween is now one of the most popular holidays in the US.  Kids and adults alike look forward to dressing up in costumes or having trick-or-treaters visit their homes in the early evening.  The tricksters harken back to the time of the spirits wandering around the real world trying to exact their vengeance on those that wronged them!

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