The roots of Halloween’s dates back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. The Celts lived 2,000 years ago in Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France. They celebrated their new year on November 1st. It marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the winter.
They believed on the eve of the New Year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. So, on October 31, they celebrated Samhain, the night when ghosts and spirits returned to earth. The returned spirits would cause trouble and damage crops. The belief was the presence of the spirits made it easier for the Druids to make predictions about the future.
To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires. People gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. During the celebration, costumes were worn, usually made up of animal heads and skins. After the celebration, the hearth fires they had extinguished earlier were re-lit. They were re-lit from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.
In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a day to honour all saints and martyrs. It’s commonly known as All Saints’ Day and incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows’ Eve and later Halloween. Over time, Halloween evolved into the event characterised by child-friendly activities like trick-or-treating. http://www.history.com/topics/halloween/history-of-halloween
Some fun facts about Halloween:
- The jack-o’-lantern is from Irish folklore. According to folklore, Stingy Jack was having a drink with the Devil. Jack convinced him to turn himself into a coin so he could for pay for the drinks. When the Devil turned into a coin Jack put him into his pocket. In his pocket was a silver cross, which kept the Devil from transforming back. Stuck, the Devil made a deal. In return for his freedom the Devil promised not to bother Jack for a year and if he died, he would never claim Jack’s soul. Jack tricked the Devil again a year later. As Jack walked home the Devil come to him, Jack agreed to go with him but only if the Devil would pick a piece of fruit off a tree. As the Devil climbed the tree, Jack carved a cross into the bark, trapping the Devil in the branches. In return, for his freedom, he would leave Jack alone for 10 years. When Jack finally died, he arrived at the gates of heaven but God wouldn’t let him enter. Jack went down to hell, but the Devil had promised never to claim his soul. Instead he sent Jack off to roam Earth with only a burning coal for light. He put the coal into a turnip as a lantern, and Stingy Jack became “Jack of the Lantern” or “Jack o’ Lantern.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/24/halloween-weird-facts_n_5948456.html
- The first Jack O’Lanterns were actually made from turnips, beets and potatoes. The Irish carved scary faces into them to scare away Stingy Jack or any other spirits of the night. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/24/halloween-weird-facts_n_5948456.html
- Halloween is the second highest grossing commercial holiday after Christmas in America.
- An intense and persistent fear of Halloween is called Samhnainophobia
- Black and orange are typically associated with Halloween. Orange is a symbol of strength and endurance and, along with brown and gold, stands for the harvest and autumn. Black is typically a symbol of death and darkness and acts as a reminder that Halloween once was a festival that marked the boundaries between life and death.
- Halloween has variously been called All Hallows’ Eve, Witches Night, Lamswool, Snap-Apple Night, Samhain, and Summer’s End.
- During the pre-Halloween celebration of Samhain, bonfires were lit to ensure the sun would return after the long, hard winter. Often Druid priests would throw the bones of cattle into the flames and, hence, “bone fire” became “bonfire.”
- Dressing up as ghouls and other spooks originated from the ancient Celtic tradition of townspeople disguising themselves as demons and spirits. They believed that disguising themselves this way would allow them to escape the notice of the real spirits wandering the streets during Samhain.