Happy Halloween everyone. Halloween is also known as All Hallows Eve, All Saints Day, and Samhain as well. However you decide to call this day of celebration, it has always been surrounded with magic, mystery and superstition, dating back from its beginnings with the Druids and the Ancient Celts up through today. The Ancient Celts and Druids celebrated this last day of October as the end of summer and harvest and the beginning of winter. They believed this last night before their new year began was when the boundaries between the world of the living and the world of the dead blurred, and the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. It was celebrated with bonfires and sacrifices made to the Celtic Gods. Costumes have always been a large part of the ceremonies. Because times were harsh and there was often not enough food, the poor would go out begging for food, but they dressed in costumes to fool the ghosts, hoping the ghosts and spirits of the dead would not recognize them. Often times, people disguised themselves as animals or earthen elements.
Towards the end of the 8th century and the beginning of the 9th century, Christianity had spread into the Celtic regions, as well as the rest of Europe, and was beginning to have its own influences over the land and the people. Pope Gregory, III was trying to rid the region of its Pagan heritage and was trying to establish Christian roots instead. In order to make the crossover more successful, he blended a lot of the old Pagan traditions with the newer Christian traditions, in hopes of replacing the old Celtic festival of the dead with the Church-sanctioned Holiday. This blending of the cultures is still very evident today (not just in the Samhein celebrations, but in many other holiday traditions as well). So instead of celebrating Samhain, also know as Samhuin, or All Hallows Eve, Pope Gregory, III created All Saints Day, which is celebrated on November 1st. In The South American countries, this is known as Dia de las Muertes, or the Day of the Dead, which is a big holiday that is celebrated by everyone.
The tradition of giving out candy started from the poor begging for food from the more well-to-do families. At first, food was left outside as a sacrifice to the dead. It was left outside so the ghosts of the dead would not enter the house and curse the families or the homes. But this became a health hazard and was changed over time. Instead of leaving food outside the home, “soul cakes” were given to the poor in exchange for the promise of them saying a prayer for the dead relatives of the more affluent people. This was known as “going-a-souling”. Over the years, the soul cakes evolved into the giving of candy to the children, eventually to become what is known as “trick-or-treating” today.
The carving of pumpkins is yet another old Celtic tradition, used to ward off the evil spirits, though originally turnips were used. When the customs and traditions of Halloween spread to America, pumpkins were more readily available and were larger, and became the favored choice to carve rather than turnips.
However you celebrate, and whatever you call it, enjoy the day and Happy Halloween.