Samhain, Hallows’ Eve, Halloween

To Americans, Halloween is a time of trick or treating, visiting hunted houses, going to parties and wearing costumes. But what are the true origins of this holiday?

Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1. This day marked the ending of summer and the beginning of winter. the Celts believed that on the day before new year, being October 31, the boundaries between the living and death opened.

The ancient Gaels believed that on Oct. 31, the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead overlapped and the deceased would come back to life. The Celts believed all laws of space and time were suspended during this time, allowing the spirit world to intermingle with the living. On Oct. 31, Celts celebrated Samhain. It is said that when the death came into the world, they would damage all crops and harvest.

To honor this event, the Druids build bonfires in which people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to god. People would wore costumes which mainly where animal heads and skins. Once the celebration ended, villagers would re-lit their fires in order to stay warm for the winter.

By 43 A.D., the Roman Empire had conquered the majority of Celtic territory. In the course of the four hundred years that they ruled the Celtic lands, two festivals of Roman origin were combined with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain. The first was Feralia, a day in late October when the Romans traditionally commemorated the passing of the dead. The second was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple and the incorporation of this celebration into Samhain probably explains the tradition of “bobbing” for apples that is practiced today on Halloween. (source:

In the second half of the 19th century, as north America began to popularize itself with more Irish immigrants, the holiday began to be more nationally popular amongst people and it has become what Halloween is today.



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