BOSTON–This fall, appreciate more than just the carved pumpkins and cotton spider webs—by learning the origins of the holiday we have come to know as Halloween.
Halloween is traced back to the ancient religion of the Celtic in Ireland, to a festival known as Samhain, which marked the end of the harvest season in the Gaelic culture. When Christianity spread to different parts of Europe, faithful worshippers tried to introduce ideas which reflected a more Christian mindset. As a result, Halloween has evolved into a combination of practices taken from both pagan and Christian traditions.As Christianity spread into Ireland and the surrounding Celtic lands in the 7th century, Pope Boniface IV established All Saints’ Day. It was intended to replace the pagan tradition of honoring the dead with honoring saints and martyrs and was originally celebrated on May 13. In 834 A.D., Gregory III moved All Saints Day from May 13 to November 1. For Christians, this became an opportunity for venerating all of the saints and holy ones who had passed on. October 31 became All Hallows’ Eve, ‘hallow’ meaning saint.
Today, children use the phrase “trick-or-treat,” which traces back to the pagan holiday of Samhain, the ultimate night of demonic worshipping and euphoria. Spirits of the dead were believed to rise out of their graves and meander among local towns and villages, trying to return home. In an attempt to make peace, villagers offered gifts of fruit and nuts and began placing other tasty morsels on their doorsteps. Villagers feared that if they did not abide by this custom, the wandering spirits would destroy their property or harm their flock.
One way of trying to blend in among the spirits in an attempt to remain unnoticed was to join them. Townspeople would masquerade as demons, wearing disguises, masks or even blackening their faces with soot to keep themselves safe. From this came the Halloween ritual of dressing up as devils, witches, ogres and other demonic creatures, which then gave way to additional costumes.