Halloween started as an ancient Celtic festival called Samhain where people would wear costumes to scare off dead spirits and ghosts. If all you want to know is where Halloween got its name, skip ahead to the final paragraph.
Samhain marked the end of the summer harvest and ushered in the colder months. Celts believed that the boundaries between the living and the dead would blur during this time. People traditionally wore costumes in hopes they could ward off these dead spirits. Poorer people would visit the houses of wealthier families and promise to pray for the souls’ of previous house owners that had passed away in exchange for pastries (called soul cakes).
In Scotland and Ireland, children went from house to house singing songs and doing tricks in exchange for food, money, etc. This is the origin of the modern day “trick or treat.”
By 43 AD, the Roman Empire had conquered most of the Celtic territory. They combined two of their festivals with Celtic festivals.
The second festival was called Pomona. Pomona was the Roman goddess of fruit and trees, and the symbol of Pomona was the apple. Most historians believe this explains our Halloween tradition of “bobbing for apples.”
In 609 AD, Pope Gregory III added the custom of praying for the dead to the festival. November 1st was designated as the time to honor saints and martyrs. This was known as All Saints Day. All Saints Day became known as All Hallows (from Middle English word, Alholowmesse, meaning All Saints’ Day). The day before All Hallows, people continued to celebrate the Celtic tradition of Samhain. This became known as All Hallows Eve. All Hallows Eve eventually became Hallows Evening. Hallows Evening eventually became Halloween.
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- According to legend, if you see a spider on Halloween, it’s actually the spirit of a loved one watching you.
- Jack-o’-lanterns were originally made out of turnips, beets, and potatoes — not pumpkins.
- Samhainophobia is the fear of Halloween.
- In Hollywood, there’s a $1000 fine for using silly string on Halloween.
- History.com – HISTORY OF HALLOWEEN
- Country Living – The Truth About Why We Really Celebrate Halloween
- Miami Herald – What actually is Halloween, and why do we celebrate it?