word Halloween has its origins in the Catholic Church, coming from a
contraction of Hallowed Eve. November 1, or All Saints Day, is a Catholic day of
observance in honor of saints, but the history of Halloween goes much farther
back than the Catholics or the name.
5th century BC Ireland, summer officially ended on October 31. The Celts
believed that on this day ghosts walked and mingled with the living. The holiday
was called Samhain (sow-en) which marked the third and final harvest of the
year, the Celtic New Year.
reason the Celts celebrated this day as New Year, rather than Yule like other
European pagans, was probably due to the fact that the sun is at its lowest
point on the horizon, as measured by the ancient standing stones of Britain and
Druids sacrificed to their deities by burning victims in wicker cages. Prior to
the ceremony, all other fires extinguished and were then re-lit from the
modern pagans and Wiccans celebrate Halloween or Samhain as the New Year, the
day when the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest. The pagan
god dies at Samhain, only to be re-born again at Yule. For these pagans, Samhain
is a day for remembering and honoring the dead and celebrating the eternal cycle
Boniface was instrumental in superimposing a Christian festival over the pagan
traditions. Originally, the holidays took place on May 13, but a century later,
Pope Gregory III changed it to the present November 1. October 31 was no longer
the last day of the year and Samhain was reassigned to the Feast of All Saints.
is interesting to note that many of the customs surrounding the observance of
the Christian All Souls Day also center around accessibility to the dead. In
fact, many customs with their origins in pagan traditions have survived to the
present. In addition to the souls of the dead alleged to be roaming about, the
devil, witches and other assorted monsters and goblins are believed to be at the
peak of their supernatural powers.
Europe, Halloween eventually evolved into a celebration for children.
"Ghosts" went from door to door asking for treats, or else a trick
would be played on the owners of the home. When millions of Irish immigrated to
the United States in the 1840s the tradition followed them.