The Origins of Halloween

Adriana Leiss, Journalist

Since it is finally spooky season, I would like to explain what Halloween is and how it started. To understand the whole story, we must flashback about 2,000 years to the area now known as Ireland, the United Kingdom, and parts of northern France during this period the land was controlled by the Celtae.  

 The Celtae were a part of the early Indo-European people. Halloween originated from the Celtic festival of Samhain. According to their calendar ,November 1st marked the new year. For them it was the end of the summer harvest and beginning of a harsh winter which they associated with human death. They believed that the night before the new year the boundary between the living and dead worlds was broken allowing ghosts and evil spirits to roam the earth once again.  

On October 31st, they would light bonfires and wear costumes to protect themselves from evil spirits. Their costumes were typically made from animal skin and heads that they used them to predict their future and fortunes that would occur through the winters. The bonfires were considered a sacred ritual in which they would burn animals and crops as a sacrifice to the deities they believed were watching over them. 

Flash forward to about 43 A.D. when the Roman empire took over the land controlled by the Celtae they combined two of their roman festivals with the Celtic tradition of Samhain. One of the Roman festivals was Feralia which commemorated the passing of dead loved ones. The second festival was used to honor the Roman goddess that controlled crops who was known as Pomona. After they combined this, they kept the date for the celebrations on October 31st. 

Flash forward again to 609 A.D. as Pope Boniface moved the Catholic feast used to honor all saints from May 13th to November 1st it slowly blended with the old Celtic rituals. Many believe they did this to make the Celtic festivals more church related. They called this day All-Hallowmas which originated from the middle east and meant All Saints’ Day. This caused people to start calling the traditional day of the Samhain ritual All-Hallows Eve and eventually become Halloween. 

 People still celebrated it, but it was extremely limited in most New England colonies but with the spread of immigrants to America in the 19th century it became popularized and was noticed as a national holiday. Though Halloween lost most of its religion and superstitions surrounding it in the 20th century it is still widely celebrated across the globe.