Halloween is often perceived as a commercial holiday. It gets a reputation as being just another Hallmark money making scheme. However, the holiday actually has an incredibly rich history that not everyone knows about. According to The History Channel website, the origins of our modern Halloween traditions take root in numerous different cultures who have been celebrating on October 31 for centuries.
- Halloween has been around way longer than the Hallmark industry. The actual birth of Halloween can be traced back to the ancient Celts (pronounced “Kelts”) who populated what is now the UK, Ireland and France. As tradition, the Celts celebrated the start of their new year on November 1. The night before the new year began, October 31, they believed the spirit world merged with the mortal world. That night was known as the festival of Samhain (sow-in), in which they would celebrate the return of the deceased. They would predict fortunes told, wear costumes made of animal skin and hold a sacrificial bonfire, with which they would then light their fireplaces with to keep them warm in the upcoming winter, after the celebration had ended.
- Do you ever wonder where we get traditions like bobbing for apples? Following the Roman conqueror of the Celtic land, the Samhain festival became laced with traditionally Roman celebrations. Feralia, a similar holiday nearing the end of October, was incorporated to celebrate death and the passing of the spirits into the afterlife. Traditions that we still see today stemmed from these incorporations, such as bobbing for apples, which originated with the celebration of Pomona, the goddess of trees and fruit.
- The name “Halloween” isn’t a new thing. To honor all Christian martyrs, in 609 A.D. the Western Catholic Church declared May 13 to be All Martyrs Day. The holiday was later broadened to be All Saints Day, and then moved to November 1. Once Christianity migrated to the Celtic region, they began celebrating the holiday which fell on the same day as their new year. All Saints Day was referred as All-hallows, making October 31st, the day when the spirits would rise, All-hallows Eve. These traditions would eventually make their way into America, especially after a large influx of Irish and English immigrants in the 1800’s, bringing Halloween to the United States.
- Halloween has roots in many different cultures. Halloween is not just specific to Europe and European influenced nations. Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is the Latin American and Mexican festival created to honor all of the spirits who have passed and said to return to earth on that sacred night. Dia de los Muertos is filled with many traditions and festivities ranging from memorial altars with candles and incense to large feasts of celebration. The holiday is quite similar to the European version as they both center around honoring those who have died and celebrating the return of their spirits to earth for that one night.