How Did Halloween Start?

Halloween has its origins from a festival held over 2,000 years ago before the beginning of Christianity. It is not as many people believe a custom started in America, although the Americans have embraced Halloween more than any other nation.

The Ancient Celts that lived in the countries we now call The United Kingdom, Northern France and Ireland and on the 31st of October each year they had a huge celebration called Samhain – pronounced “Sow-in”. The Celtic priests presided over this festival and they were called Druids, and the name of Samhain was the name of their Lord of the Dead or Lord of Darkness.

Their belief was that that leaving out “treats” for spirits would encourage them to return to earth to visit their living relatives, and they would even leave the homes open to encourage the visitation of the spirits. Their lives revolved around nature and their agriculture, and on the night of Samhain (31st October), they would make huge bonfires of crops and dress in animals skins and adorn themselves with the heads of dead animals in a ritualistic celebration.

In Ireland the evening of the 31st of October was called Hallows Eve or the night before “All Hallows”. In Scotland it was know as Halloween.

Other peoples of religion such as Roman Catholics, Greek Orthodox Church also celebrated similar historic festivals for Saints or for the dead which was held earlier in the year on different dates.

In the seventh century Pope Boniface IV changed the pagan festival to become All Saints Day and as Christianity spread throughout the Celtic Lands with Rome conquering many of the areas owned by the Celts, the 1st of November was proclaimed as the day of celebration of All Saints. The festivals name has different origins but all had a similar spelling such as the Ancient English “Alholowmesse” which means “All Saints Day”. The evening before this day (31st October) was called All-hallows Eve or All Hakkiwe’en in other areas, and loosely translated is the eve before All Saints. This was eventually shortened updated over the decades to become what we know as Halloween.

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