Have you ever questioned why on earth we celebrate Halloween and where the idea came from? If you are like most of us, you simply enjoy the fun and games, and of course treats, and haven’t really given the roots of the holiday much thought. But the history of Halloween is a truly cool story in its own right.
Way back in the day, about 2000 or so years ago, there lived a people recognized as Celts. They inhabited the area we call Ireland, and there were also some in France and the UK, too. In fact, the oral communication that is spoken in Ireland is not Irish, as you may think. It is Celtic.
Anyway, the Celtic people had a dissimilar New Year’s Day than we do here nowadays. Their new year began on November 1st; this is plausibly because November marked the end of the bountiful, glorious, harvest time of year and the start of the cold, dark winter. Therefore, it seems like a perfect time for branding a new year, right?
So, the Celtic people had a theory that their New Year’s Eve, October 31, was the night when there was the perfect chance for the spooks of dead people to return to earth, and so the worlds of the living and the dead joined for a night. On this night, the Celtic people turned to their Druid priests for insight into what was to come in the New Year. And some theories of the history of Halloween include the priests’ power to recognize the future by determining it from the dead who came back to earth.
So, the early version of Halloween, called SamHain (“sow-in”), was born. The Celts ordinarily built these vast bonfires and dressed up in the skins of animals. They assembled around the bonfires in these “costumes” and sacrificed a small amount of their crops and animals to the Celtic gods in the hopes that the gods would be just to them in the coming year.
Later, the Romans occupied Ireland and the other Celtic lands, and they contributed their own twist into what we now recognize as Halloween; subsequently the history of Halloween was changed a bit. They bestowed a couple things into SamHain. First, they added a day called Faralia, which was a day the Romans had put apart as a day to remember and respect those who had died before us. Then, they also admitted a day to please Pomona, a goddess whose symbolic representation is the apple. Remember those days of bobbing for apples as a kid? You can give thanks to Pomona for that custom.
And Then, Christianity came to the area, around the 800s. The Pope at the time, Pope Bonaface, stated November 1st All Saint’s Day, which is still renowned as a Holy Day by the Catholic Church. The Church often times attempted to substitute pagan holidays with associated holidays in order to quell the pagan people who wanted festivals, but also to make Christian-based celebrations. The night before All Saint’s Day, SamHain to the Celts, began to be called All Hallow’s Eve or All Hallow’s Mass. Eventually, it became acknowledged as Halloween.