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The History of Halloween

History has taught us that Halloween descends from a Celtic festival known as "Samhain". These festivals occurred over 2,000 years ago in what is now England, France and Ireland. The celebration occurred every Oct. 31, marking the return of the cold, dark season.

Samhain was believed by the Celts to be the Lord of Death. It was October 31, and only October 31 that Samhain would allow the deceased to return to their former homes on earth.

As you can imagine, all these spirits traveling in to the netherworld were quite restless. Huge bonfires, built from sacred oak branches, were lit, and crops, animals and even humans were sacrificed into the flames to quell these spirits. The remaining bones were then collected and “read” to predict the fortune of the upcoming year, which started Nov. 1.

The tradition of dressing up arose as the Celts donned frightening costumes made from animal heads and skins, so the ghosts would think the Celts were not mortal and thus would not harm them.

As always in history, wars break out, territory is claimed, and traditions are carried over to new people. When the Romans conquered the Celts in A.D. 43, Roman autumn celebrations such as the one honoring Pomona, goddess of fruit and trees, were integrated with Samhain. Thus, apples became associated with Halloween.

During the 1800’s when large numbers of immigrants came to America, several Halloween customs came with them.

Irish settlers brought bobbing for apples.

The people of England and Scotland brought their custom of carving out beets, potatoes and turnips to light as lanterns. The custom changed slightly upon reaching America, with the pumpkin becoming our Jack o' Lantern.

Halloween history is one of sacrifices, religious traditions, and folklore. While it seems strange to understand the motivation of these ancient actions, it is good to know the roots of our current practices of Halloween.     

 

Have A Safe And Happy Holiday Season!