The Origins of Halloween

The most wonderous fun holiday of the year is upon us.  Yes, Halloween is back.  With all the candy giving, the decorating, and dressing up it can be easy to forget the origins of Halloween. 

Halloween dates to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain.  The Celts who lived over 2,000 years ago in Ireland, Great Britain and parts of France celebrated their New Year’s Day on November 1st.  The day marked the end of summer and the beginning of the harsh winter.  Celts believed that on the night before New Year’s Day the worlds of the living and dead became blurred.  It is believed that the spirits of the dead returned to earth on October 31st.  The Druids or Celtic priests were believed to be able to make predictions about the future.  To celebrate the event the Druids built sacred bonfires and the people made sacrifices to the Celtic deities, of crops and animals.  When the celebration was over, they relit their hearth fires from the bonfire to help protect them from the harsh winter.  They also removed the animal heads they wore when celebrating the holiday.

Throughout the ages other cultures have added to the holiday by meshing their own traditions with it.  The Roman Empire combined Feralia, a day at the end of October that commemorated the passing of the dead.  The second was the day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees and the symbol of the apple.  The Irish brought Halloween into the limelight during the potato famine when they moved to America.  Borrowing from the Irish traditions, Americans began to dress up in costumes and go trick or treating. 

Today, Halloween is celebrated by children dressed up in costumes and demanding candy as they travel from door to door.  It is a day of great enjoyment by those who celebrate it.  And to think we owe it to the Celts of 2,000 years ago.

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