Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. In the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France, lived the Celts over 2,000 years ago. They celebrated their new year on November 1. This day was the end of their harvest and the beginning of the cold and dark winter. The Celts equate this time of year with death. Their belief was that the boundaries between the living and the dead overlapped for just one night. This was the eve before their new year. This is October 31st a holiday they called Samhain and a date to be known in much later years as Halloween.
Samhain was believed to be the night that the dead walked the earth in the form of ghosts and did harm to their crops. They believed that during this time that the ghosts of the dead were on this plain they gave spiritual guidance to the Druids and Celtic priests allowing them to predict the future. These predictions were held in high belief and they would follow these directions from the predictions in every aspect of their lives.
Celebrations would occur during this holiday and sacrifices of animals and crops were made. Bonfires were built to place the sacrificial offerings in. Customs were worn of dead animal heads and skins during this ritual while the fortunes were told that were channeled from the ghosts of the dead. The evening would end by building a last bonfire as a symbol for protection of the looming cold harsh winter.
By 43 A.D., the Romans were ruling the majority of Celtic territory. During the four hundred years that they ruled the Celtic lands the two cultures combined. The Roman Festival blended with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain changing the rituals of October 31st.
Some of the traditions we practice on Halloween today have their roots from this time period. The Roman holiday of Feralia was practiced in a day in late October when the passing of the dead were honored. Another holiday the Romans brought with them was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple. This explains the bobbing for apples that have come up through the years as a Halloween tradition.
The influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands by the 800’s. Pope Boniface IV, who reigned in the 7th century, named November 1 All Saints’ Day, a time to honor saints and martyrs. The celebration was also called All-hallows. The night before it, the night once called Samhain, began to be called All-Hallows Eve. This festival continued through the years eventually being called Halloween.
Halloween History, The History of Halloween Website