The streets are crowded, children running from one house to another, bags full of candies and costumes inspired by their most liked film characters. But there’s more to Halloween than you realise. It goes back years ago. A long, long time ago. Embark on this spooky trip back in the Samhain days.
Halloween bears many names, one which is All Hallows’ Eve. It takes its origin back in the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain which marks the end of the harvest season. And rings the bell for the start of winter or the ‘’darker half’’ of the year. The Celts celebrated their New Year on the 1st November and that time of the year was mostly associated with human death. They had a deep belief that the night before their new year, the frontier that separated the world of the dead and the living became blurred.
But why is Halloween celebrated on the 31st of October? Samhain was celebrated on that same day and people thought that the spirits of the dead came back on earth on that date. At that time, they had the belief that many ghosts were causing troubles and damaging a range of crops. They even thought that these spirits made it a lot easier for the Celtic priests or Druids to predict what would happen in the future.
To pay tribute to that event, the Druids would build massive holy bonfires, and this is the place where people would come together to burn animals and crops as a sacrifice to the Celtic divinities. Here’s something quite interesting, during these celebrations, the Celts would be clothed in various costumes, especially animal skins and heads.
Later, when the Roman Empire took over most of the Celtic territory, more traditions were added to the Celtic celebration of Samhain. The first one was Feralia, which was held to honour the passing of the dead. Then, they celebrated Pomona, the goddess of fruitful abundance. The symbol that represents Pomona is the apple and that might explain the apple-bobbing during Halloween.
After the Roman Empire's influence on the Celtic traditions, Christianity had much impact into the various Celtic lands. Their rites would blend and add to the older Celtic rituals. The church would celebrate All Soul’s Day on the 2nd of November, a day to pay homage to the dead. Nowadays, it is widely believed that the church wanted to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a church-sanctioned holiday since All Souls Day was celebrated in the same way as Samhain. There were giant bonfires, people would parade disguising themselves as angels, devils and saints. There’s more to that, All Saints Day celebration was also known as All-Hallowmas or All-hallows and guess what? The night before this celebration, that is the traditional night of Samhain, began to be known as All-Hallows Eve and eventually, it was called Halloween.
But how did Halloween arrive in the UK? Decades ago, Britain was invaded by a new religion which is Christianity and it spread from the north to the western extremities. With this new religion came new practices, Christian festivals and amongst them, there’s ‘’All Hallows’ Day’’.
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Welcome on board! 🎃