[Northkeep] History of Halloween

Kathryn Helstrom kiamichikate at gmail.com
Wed Oct 27 14:46:35 PDT 2010

Here's History.com's version of the history of Halloween.

 Ancient Origins of Halloween

Halloween's origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain
(pronounced sow-in).

The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the
United Kingdom, and northern France, celebrated their new year on November
1. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of
the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human
death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary
between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night
of October 31, they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts
of the dead returned to earth. In addition to causing trouble and damaging
crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it
easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the
future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these
prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the
long, dark winter.

To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the
people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic

During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of
animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other's fortunes. When
the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had
extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect
them during the coming winter.

By A.D. 43, Romans had conquered the majority of Celtic territory. In the
course of the four hundred years that they ruled the Celtic lands, two
festivals of Roman origin were combined with the traditional Celtic
celebration of Samhain.

The first was Feralia, a day in late October when the Romans traditionally
commemorated the passing of the dead. The second was a day to honor Pomona,
the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple and
the incorporation of this celebration into Samhain probably explains the
tradition of "bobbing" for apples that is practiced today on Halloween.

By the 800s, the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands. In
the seventh century, Pope Boniface IV designated November 1 All Saints' Day,
a time to honor saints and martyrs. It is widely believed today that the
pope was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a
related, but church-sanctioned holiday. The celebration was also called
All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All
Saints' Day) and the night before it, the night of Samhain, began to be
called All-hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween. Even later, in A.D. 1000,
the church would make November 2 All Souls' Day, a day to honor the dead. It
was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades, and
dressing up in costumes as saints, angels, and devils. Together, the three
celebrations, the eve of All Saints', All Saints', and All Souls', were
called Hallowmas

To see the Greatest Halloween Card Ever, click on the link below.


With fear,

Franziska von Locknitz

Remember this: that there is a proper dignity and proportion to be observed
in the performance of every act of life.  --Marcus Aurelius

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