Ghouls and goblins and witches, Oh my! For years we have taken part in the magic and mystery of Halloween, but just how did it all start?
All the glamour of Halloween originally started about 2000 years ago by the Celts who inhabited the area that is now modern day Ireland, The United Kingdom and northern France. The celebration that took place was called the festival of Samhain were Celts celebrated their New Year on Nov.1, according to The History Channel. The festival marked the end of summer and the beginning of a long, dark winter usually associated with death. It was believed that the night before the New Year, the boundaries between the living and the dead became blurred and the spirits of those who had passed would come back to the world of the living.
During these celebrations Celts would light a huge bonfire where they sacrificed crops and animals to their deities. They would also wear costumes of animal skins and heads, and try to predict their fortunes.
By the time Romans had conquered much of the Celtic territory in A.D. 43, two Roman festivals matriculated into the Celtic festivals. First was Feralia, a day which Romans used to celebrate the passing of the dead, and the second was to honor Pamona, the goddess of fruit and trees.
By the 800’s Christianity had made its way to the Celtic lands, and Pope Boniface IV designated Nov. 1 as All Saints’ Day, a day to honor saints and martyrs. This celebration was known as All-hallows, and the night before was known as All-hallows Eve and eventually Halloween. In A.D. 1000. The church would also make Nov. 2 All Souls’ Day to honor the dead, and much like the Celtic festival of Samhain, would make bonfires, and dress up in costumes as saints, angels and devils.
As immigrants from Europe came to America, they brought with them their own customs and traditions for Halloween. However, it was not until the 1920’s and 1930’s that Halloween became a secular and community-wide event.
Finally, the tradition of dressing up for the night springs from both European and Celtic roots. It was believe that on the night when the lines between the spirit world and real world were blurred, that spirits came back and many were afraid to leave their houses, fearing the spirits may hurt them. To avoid this, they would wear masks when leaving their house so that ghosts would mistake them for other spirits, and to keep spirits away from their homes, they would place food outside their homes to appease the spirits.
Next time you walk out side on a dark, spooky Halloween night, just remember that many of the customs and traditions we have today have roots in ancient cultures across the world.