Every year, kids and sometimes adults dress up in ridiculous outfits and storm the streets, on a mission to ring strangers doorbells and fill bags with candy. As kids, we accept trick-or-treating as normal behavior, but the October 31 tradition is really quite strange when you think about it. The traditions and folklore of Halloween are a, Celtic, Catholic and ancient Roman traditions. The holiday is thought to date to the Iron Age (around 800-600 B. C. ), when the Celts and Gauls ruled parts of Great Britain and Northern France. October 31 marks the last day of the Celtic calendar, and for Celtic-folklore believers, Halloween was a day of celebration before winter, which brought the death of life and nature, and the harvest. Similarly, Gaelic people believed it was important to honor the dead on what was, essentially, their New Year s celebration. They called the holiday Samhain, or the summer s end in Old Irish, according to Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night (Oxford University Press, 2002). When the Romans invaded Gaul (modern day France) and Britain in 1st century B. C. , many of their festival traditions became mixed with those of Samhain. In particular, the ancient Roman festival of Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruits and gardens, was held around November 1, and celebrated the apple harvest. Scholars say traditions from the darker Roman
called Parentalia and Feralia, although held in February, were also incorporated as Halloween celebrations spread through Europe.
In the Roman Catholic Church, All Saints Day, which is also referred to as All Hallows or Hallowmas, is celebrated on November 1, and is a day for honoring saints and the recently departed. The traditions came to include practices to ward off spirits and honor the dead in European countries. The British believed fire warded off evil spirits, so churches bought extra dandles and held bonfires in graveyards. The Spanish visited graveyards and consecrated graves with holy water or milk. French monks took a less superstitious action on the day, sending prayers to saints, according Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night. The Irish, however, were really the first to start the. Halloween reached America in the mid-19th century with the influx of Irish immigrants who brought their mix of Samhain, Pomona and pagan traditions. Although the holiday clearly is derived from the Church, Halloween has always been a sensitive subject in terms of religion. Some have argued Halloween is a ritual for devil worship, trying to find evidence of animal or human sacrifice in ancient traditions associated with the holiday. However, the Christian Coalition declared in 1982 that Hallowmass or Samhain were not satanic rituals. Today, the holiday has influence on many different countries around the world. Because of the French Catholic Church s strong campaign against Halloween, the French did not celebrate the holiday until the mid-1990s, but today, for their La Fete D Halloween, people go from store to store, not from house to house.
Children will sometimes ask for flowers or money to decorate tombstones. Germans celebrate, or rather, protect themselves from Halloween by hiding all the knives in their houses, in case spirits with old grudges return to cause trouble. Swedish students get a full week off for Halloween, or what they call Alla Helgons, and adults have shorter workdays. Of course, many countries with a strong Catholic influence, such as Mexico, celebrate the holiday closer to how the Ancients did, with visits to cemeteries to bless the graves and send prayers, according to The Halloween Handbook (Citadel, 2001). This article was provided by, a sister site to LiveScience. Thousands will go trick or treating for Halloween this year wearing a whole array of creepy costumes. Groups of ghosts and ghouls will be knocking on doors demanding sweets while others head out partying for the night. But how many of those dressing up actually know the origins of Halloween and the reason for wearing horrifying outfits in the first place? Here is everything you need to know. When is Halloween? Halloween is marked on October 31 every year. Why do we celebrate Halloween? Halloween dates back to the pagan times and is thought to originate with the Celtic pagan festival of Samhain. Samhain was a celebration of the end of the harvest season, meaning вsummerвs endв.
Gaels in this period areВ thought to have believed this time of year was also when the walls between the worlds were thin and porous and enabled spirits to pass through. Gaels feared the return of spirits through this thin wall between the worlds because they thought they might damage their crops for the next season. As a result, to appease any spirits that would creep through, they would set up places at their dinner tables and offer the spirits food and drink. Bonfires would also be lit to scare off evil spirits. But isnвt Halloween aВ Christian thing? Halloween also marks the day before the feast of All Saints Day (also known as All Hallows), a day that dates back to the eighth century and was designed to stamp out pagan traditions and convert people to Christianity. On this day, Christians would honour the saints and pray for spirits who hadnвt yet reached heaven. Why do we go trick or treating? Trick or treating started in Ireland, Scotland and Wales and involved people dressing up in costumes and knocking on doors asking for food. В The groups would offer up poems and songs in exchange for the food. This trick or treat tradition evolved into children exchanging prayers for the dead in exchange for вsoul cakesв in the 11th century in a tradition called вsoulingв. В These soul cakes were sweet with a cross on the top and they were intended to represent a spirit being freed from purgatory when eaten.
By the 19th century, this had evolved into a tradition where children would sing songs, tells jokes and read poems instead of prayers for pieces of fruit andВ money. Later, the childrenВ would play threatening pranks on people to get them to hand over sweets. The name вtrick or treatв was first used in America in 1929 after immigrants took traditions surrounding the day overseas. Why do we dress up? People firstВ startedВ dressing up as souls of the dead, angels and saints for Halloween hundreds of years ago. The origins of doing this в particularly among the trick or treaters вВ В was because people believed impersonating the spirits in this way would offer protection from them. Why do we carve pumpkins? This goes back to the Samhain festival when people would decorate their homes to ward off bad spirits. They used to carve turnips and over time this evolved into carving pumpkins. This is believed to be because when Irish immigrants were in America they could only find pumpkins to carve. The pumpkin carving tradition took off properly in the 1920s. The term вJack OвLanternв is believed to have come from the folk story of Stingy Jack who tricked the devil into buying him a drink. Because of this, when he died he wasnвt allowed into heaven or hell but instead was trapped by the devil instead a burning ember, which was kept inside a turnip. MORE: MORE: