A Brief History on the Origins of Halloween

Welcome to the 13 Days of Halloween

bonfire

October 31st–Halloween–the holiday many of us celebrate by carving Jack-O-Lanterns, donning a costume, and roaming the neighborhood in search of treats to be had or tricks to be doled out. I mean, seriously, this has got to be the coolest of all holidays. And if you find yourself begging to differ, otherwise inclined, or loathing Halloween entirely . . . please click here. However, if love for this holiday is mutual and you’d like to know the answers to these questions: What are the origins of these customs? Symbols? Superstitions? Beliefs? . . . this is the page to seek when you are looking for history on this day of 10/31, the greatest day of the 365.

A gypsy fire is on the hearth,
Sign of the carnival of mirth;
Through the dun fields and from the glade
Flash merry folk in masquerade,
For this is Hallowe’en!
~Author Unknown

The origins of Halloween can be traced back over 4,000 years ago (pre-Christianity) when it was better known as Samhain (sah-win). It was the end of the fall harvest and the beginning of winter’s season–life and death. It was also a time when it was believed the veil between the worlds of the living and dead thinned and spirits could crossover for a brief time. Large bonfires lit up the sky to not only honor the dead, but keep them at bay and costumes were worn to ward of any ghosts that roamed free. Sacrifices of animals, fruits, and vegetables were also made to the Celtic deities in the hopes of ensuring a mild winter and a bountiful harvest the following season. In fact, Druids and Celtic priest were asked to predict futures in the hopes of supplying people some small measure of assurance in a world that mostly consisted of harshness and uncertainty.

‘Tis the night — the night
Of the grave’s delight,
And the warlocks are at their play;
Ye think that without
The wild winds shout,
But no, it is they — it is they.
~Arthur Cleveland Coxe

This is merely one facet of Halloween. In the weeks to come, we will be looking at the Roman and Catholic influences on this holiday as well as a nasty little rumor that originated from an inaccuracy made by a 18th century writer.

In the meantime, here’s this week’s top 5 list of Halloween history:

  1. The first Jack O’Lanterns were actually made from turnips.
  2. Ireland is typically believed to be the birthplace of Halloween.
  3. 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.
  4. Dressing up as ghouls and other spooks originated from the ancient Celtic tradition of townspeople disguising themselves as demons and spirits. The Celts believed that disguising themselves this way would allow them to escape the notice of the real spirits wandering the streets during Samhain.
  5. Samhainophobia is the fear of Halloween . . . please click here.

Happy Haunting

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