Halloween History Break

We all know what Halloween’s about right? Dressing up, craving pumpkins, trick or treating, and going to amazing Halloween parties. But was it always like that?

Halloween, which is celebrated every year on October 31, first originated with the Celtic festival of Samhain. In hopes of warding of evil spirits and ghosts, this festival was celebrated by lighting bonfires and dressing up in costumes. Druids, who are known to be spiritual leaders such as priests, would burn bonfires and people would gather around to burn crops or sacrifice animals to the Celtic religious figures. During the rituals, Celts would dress up in animal heads and skin costumes.

The date November 1, was chosen by Pope Gregory III for the time to honor all saints and the day before, October 31 was known as All Hallows Eve (what we now call Halloween). After summer and the harvest season, November 1 marked the new year, but because it was the beginning of a dark and cold winter, it often related to the season of death. It was believed that on October 31, the dead would return to visit the living world.

It wasn’t until 43 A.D. that the Roman Empire ruled majority of the Celtic territory. It was then that two festivals that originated from the Romans (Feralia, which honoured the passing of the dead and the second festival honored Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees) were merged with the Celtic celebrations.

By the 9th century, Christianity had spread in Celtic lands and churches made November 2 All Souls’ day – honoring the dead. All Souls Day was celebrated very similarly to Samhain. People would light bonfires, march in parades, and dress up as saints, angels and devils.

Everyone celebrated Halloween differently. In the first half of the nineteenth century, different versions of Halloween started to emerge throughout the world. Public events were held to celebrate the harvest, neighbours would share ghost stories, tell fortunes and sing and dance. By the second half of the nineteenth century, new immigrants brought in their traditions of dressing up in costumes and going from house to house asking for food or money.

Today, we’ve kept the rituals alive, but with a much more modern twist. Halloween is a time where we honor the dead more by visiting haunted places, taking haunted tours or going to make believe haunted houses. We believe in eerie stories about ghosts and witchcraft, and listen intriguingly when our fortunes are being told. We also dress up in costumes, although it’s more than just animal heads and skin, there are pirates, vampires, witches, celebrities and so much more. We love to go out trick or treating, but instead of food and money, we get chocolates and candies, and if there is any money involved, then it’s usually for a charity. Although we might not light bonfires, we do enjoy going to Halloween parties to sing and dance the night away.

There are so many other things that go on for Halloween (or should I say All Hallows Eve) around the city. This Halloween, don’t stay in, get out there, try doing something new. Go on that ghost train or get dressed up for that “best dressed costume” party. Halloween is meant to be celebrated and who knows, you might just be lucky enough to run into a ghost!

Happy Halloween!