History of Halloween

The original history of Halloween is certainly one of the most intriguing of all the holidays. Oddly enough, the word Halloween was originated in the Catholic Church, and was initially known as All Saints Day, or All Hallows Eve. November 1st is a day that the Catholics held to honor the saints. The true history goes back much further than this, though.

October 31st was the day when summer officially ended for 5th century BC Ireland. It was believed by the Celts that ghosts walked among the living on this day. They called this holiday Samhain. It was the time of the third and last harvest of the year. It was also the Celtic New Year. The Celts observed this day as their New Year most likely because the sun is at its lowest point on the horizon. This was measured by Britain and Ireland’s ancient standing stones.

The history of Halloween becomes a bit more interesting when it is known that the Druids used this day to sacrifice victims to their deities. This sacrifice was conducted by burning their victims in cages made from wicker. Before this ceremony began, all fires were extinguished. They were all lit again from the sacrificial fire following the end of the ceremony.

This once pagan holiday was made into a Christian festival from the efforts of Pope Boniface. Initially, these holidays were celebrated on May 13. A century later, it was changed to November 1st by Pope Gregory III. This is how it remains to this day. This meant October 31st was not the last day of the year any longer, and Samhain was changed to The Feast of All Saints.

Modern pagans and Wiccans today have returned to the history of Halloween in their celebrations. They observe October 31st as Halloween or Samhain, and honor it as their New Year. This is the day believed to be when the veil that separates the living and the dead is at its thinnest. Samhain is also the day that the pagan god dies, to be re-born again during Yule. These pagans use Samhain as a day to remember and honor dead loved ones. It is a celebration of the eternal cycle of reincarnation.

For Europeans, the history of Halloween eventually changed into a celebration revolving around children. Over the years, these children began to dress up as “ghosts”, going from house to house asking for treats. If the unlucky home owners did not give them treats some questionable tricks would be played on them. This tradition came to the United States with the Irish immigrants sometime during the 1840’s.

Another interesting part of the history of Halloween is that many traditions around the celebration of the Christian All Souls Day seem to involve the dead in some way. It is also known that many of the Christian customs actually have their origins in pagan roots, this of course includes Halloween!


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One Response to “History of Halloween”

Oct 4th at 5:03 pm By: Sally

Thanks for the great information on Halloween history!

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