The History of Halloween

The History of Halloween

Halloween, or Hallowe’en a contraction of All Hallows’ Evening), is a celebration observed in a number of countries on 31 October, the eve of All Hallows’ Day.

It begins the three-day observance of Allhallowtide, the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed.

All Hallows’ Eve is a Christianized feast influenced by Celtic harvest festivals, with possible pagan roots, particularly the Gaelic festival Samhain.

Halloween activities include trick-or-treating, attending Halloween costume parties, decorating, carving pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns, lighting bonfires, apple bobbing, games, playing pranks, visiting haunted attractions, telling scary stories and watching horror films. In many parts of the world, the Christian religious observances of All Hallows’ Eve, including attending church services and lighting candles on the graves of the dead, remain popular, although elsewhere it is a more commercial and secular celebration. Some Christians abstain from meat on All Hallows’ Eve, eating instead apples, colcannon, potato pancakes and soul cakes.

According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica,

In ancient Britain and Ireland, the Celtic Festival of Samhain was observed on October 31, at the end of summer.

The souls of the dead were supposed to revisit their homes on this day and the autumnal festival acquired sinister significance, with ghosts, witches, goblins, black cats, fairies and demons of all kinds said to be roaming about.

It was the time to placate the supernatural powers controlling the processes of nature.

In addition, Halloween was thought to be the most favorable time for divinations concerning marriage, luck, health, and death.

It was the only day on which the help of the devil was invoked for such purposes.

Halloween symbols, customs, and practices have had a variety of influences upon Western culture throughout history.

However, in early American history, Halloween was not celebrated due to America’s strong Christian heritage. It was not widely observed until the twentieth century. Initially, it was practiced only in small Irish Catholic settlements, until thousands of Irish migrated to America during the great potato famine and brought their customs with them.

To some degree, the modern American origin of Halloween is an Irish holiday with early origins in the Celtic winter festival.

Ireland is the only place in the world where Halloween is actually a national holiday.

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