Halloween has been deeply embedded into the culture of America and many other areas of the world for centuries. Children dressing up in costumes, tricks, treats, parties, haunted houses and many other scary things have been common on Halloween throughout history. Some even believe that the holiday is an evil or even Satanic celebration. But when did it all begin? What is the real meaning of halloween?
The Origin of Halloween begins with the ancient Celtics (or Druids) and a festival known as Samhain that ushered in the winter season. This festival was held on October 31st, when the ancients believed that the lines between the world of the living and the realm of the dead would become blurred. They believed that the non living would come back to life and cause harm to the living such as sickness, loss of crops and more.
Later around the 8th century, Pope Gregory III assigned November 1 as a day to honor all saints and martyrs. The day was known as All Saints’ Day and seemed to incorporate some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows’ Eve and later became Halloween.
The ancient Samhain festival would often involve large bonfires that attracted insects like moths. These insects would in turn attract predators such as bats. Bats were a common appearance during the ancient festival as they swooped in close to the fire during the rituals. The bat has been one of the most common symbols of Halloween ever since.
The Celtics would also wear masks as a a way to scare away ghosts and evil spirits that may harm their crops. Sometimes the ancient people would cut the heads off various animals and hollow them out before placing them over their own heads. This is believed by many to be the origin of costumes on Halloween.
The carving of jack-o-lanterns is one of the most popular halloween traditions and began with turnips. Turnips were carved and used as lanterns that represented the souls of the dead that were trapped in purgatory and to ward away the wandering ghosts on All Hallows’ Eve. After the birth of America, the pumpkin was adopted as a replacement for the turnip because of it’s size and availability. The Jack-O-Lantern was born.
The name “Jack-o-Lantern” stems from an old irish folktale in which a villager named Jack was able to trick the devil into promising not to take his soul. Jack was a thief and did not live as he should. There are many variations of the story, but after Jacks death, he was unable to go to heaven and unable to go to hell. He was trapped in limbo. It was dark there and Jack asked the Devil how he would see. The devil gave Jack hot embers from Hell that would never burn out. Jack hollowed out a turnip and placed the embers inside, making himself a lantern. Jack is said to still wander the earth in search of his final resting place and is known as “Jack of The Lantern”.
Trick-or-treating is another example of ancient traditions that live on. People would leave food and offerings on their door step for wandering ghosts and spirits to keep them at bay, much like a peace offering. This is what became the first true type of trick-or-treating on Halloween.
Although the origin and History of Halloween is considered pagan in origin, modern day culture has for the most part embraced the ancient festival. The candy and costumes are big money makers in modern times, along with haunted attractions and shows that lure those looking for a good scare to their doors. The popularity of October 31st has only grown over the years and has spread to many areas of the world that had never had any Halloween traditions before.
Many of the pagan rituals associated with October 31st are long gone but there are still many people, who believe that Halloween is nothing more than an evil celebration of paganism and witchcraft. Some church groups even attempt to keep children from trick or treating by having their own celebrations on the same night. Some of these include “Hell Houses” instead of haunted houses.
However, the creepy associations with the undead and evil spirits remain and makes Halloween one of the most fun and scary holidays of the year for many people around the world. You can learn even more about Halloween and it’s interesting history below.
So this Halloween remember to be safe, have fun and no matter how you may celebrate, have a happy Halloween!