History of Halloween


Halloween is a favorite holiday for both young and old alike. The holiday sits between fall and winter and is a time for superstition and celebration. The origination of the holiday is thought to be based on the Celtic festival known as Samhain. During this festival the Celtic people would wear costumes and light bonfires in order to ward off ghosts that were roaming in the area.

During the 8th century, November 1st was designated by Pope Gregory III as a day to honor all martyrs and saints. This holiday was called All Saints Day and included some of the Samhain traditions. The night before all saint’s day was called All Hallows’ Eve, which later turned to Halloween.

Through time the eve of All Saint’s Day turned into a secular event that was characterized with events for children including trick or treating.

Ancient Halloween Origins

The Celtic festival known as Samhain seems to be where Halloween originated from. The Celts lived over two thousand years. The people resided in the area that is now known as Ireland. They also lived in areas of the U.K. and the northern part of France. The Celts celebrated their new year on the first of November. The day marked the ending of the summer harvest and was the start of the cold and dark winter. Winter was a time that was often associated as being a time for death.

The Celtic people believed that the day and night before the new year the lines between the world of the dead and living were blurred. This is why on the night of October 31st they celebrated the festival of Samhain. This is when it was believed that the ghosts of the deceased would return to the earth. In addition to ruining crops and causing trouble, the Celts also believed that the spirits presence made it much easier for the Celtic Priests called Druids to make predictions for the future. The prophecies were important to these people as a source of comfort throughout the winter as the Celts depended on the natural world.

In order to celebrate huge bonfires were built by the Celtic Priests and crops and animals were offered as sacrifices. The Celts would wear costumes during these celebrations that typically consisted of animal skins and heads. The Celts would re-light the fires in their hearths from the bonfire for protection throughout the winter months.

Roman Empire and Current Traditions

Most of the Celtic territory was taken over by the Romans. During the next years Roman festivals and traditions were combined with those of the Celts. The mixture of these festivals has led to the current traditions that we practice today on Halloween.

While Halloween was fairly limited in colonial New England as many of the people were Protestant. Over time the traditions and customs from different European ethnic groups as well as the Native Americans have created a Halloween tradition in the United States that is quite unique.