So where did Halloween
For thousands of years people have been celebrating different holidays and
festivals at the end of October. The Celts celebrated it as Samhain (pronounced
"sow-in", with "sow" rhyming with cow). The Irish English dictionary
published by the Irish Texts Society defines the word as follows:
"Samhain, All Hallowtide, the feast
of the dead in Pagan and Christian times, signalizing the close of harvest and the
initiation of the winter season, lasting till May, during which troops (esp. the Fiann)
were quartered. Faeries were imagined as particularly active at this season. From it the
half year is reckoned. also called Feile Moingfinne (Snow Goddess).(1) The Scottish
Gaelis Dictionary defines it as "Hallowtide. The Feast of All Soula. Sam + Fuin
= end of summer."(2) Contrary to the information published by many
organizations, there is no archaeological or literary evidence to indicate that
Samhain was a deity. The Celtic Gods of the dead were Gwynn ap Nudd for theBritish,
and Arawn for the Welsh. The Irish did not have a "lord of death" as such.
The information on Samhain is from Rowan Moonstone's The
Origins of Halloween.
(1) Rev. Patrick Dineen, "An Irish English Dictionary" (Dublin, 1927), p. 937
(2) Malcolm MacLennan,
"A Pronouncing and Etymological Dictionary of the Gaelic Language" (Aberdeen,
1979), p. 279
The Celts believed that every
year on the last day of October, the souls of the dead visited the earth.
When the Romans conquered the Celts in the first century A.D., they added parts
of their festivals, Feralia and Poloma to the tradition. Feralia was a festival to honor
the dead and Poloma was a harvest festival named after the goddess of fruit (apples)
Around the eighth century, the Christian church made November 1 All Saints' Day
to honor all of the saints that didn't have a special day of their own. Over the
years these festivals combined, the mass held on All Saints' Day was called Allhallowmas
(the mass of all Hallows -- saintly people). The night before was known as All Hallows
Eve. Eventually this name became Halloween.
In the 1800s, as
a lot of people emigrated to the U.S., the holidays and traditions of different cultures
merged. Halloween was not always a happy time. October 31, or the night before took on
other names. Some called it Devil's or Hell night, to others it was mischief night. To
some people this became a time to play tricks on others. Some of these tricks were not fun
at all. Luckily, community groups and individuals took action and started to change
Halloween into a family event. Dressing up in costumes and going "trick or
treating" (going to houses, knocking on the door & asking for small treats or
toys), costume parades, community parties and Fall festivals are some of the ways that
Halloween is celebrated today.
The costumes are
thought to have originated with the belief that the dead walked the earth on All Hallows
Eve, and the dead would not recognize the living if they were dressed as if they were
demons, witches or other appropriate beings. Today, costumes are worn for fun, and
range from the delightful to the frightful!
Other countries have different Fall
festivals to honor the deceased.
The Festival of the Dead is one of the most important happenings in both Palermo
and the rest of Sicily. The second of November is a festival day for the children of
Palermo as, according to tradition, they were made to believe that their dead relatives
would return the night before and leave them traditional sweets and cakes on the table
(Martorana fruit, which is almond paste made into the shape of different fruit). They
would also receive puppets of boiled sugar and toys. It's one way of keeping the memory of
their dead relatives and loved ones alive. (from the neomedia Web site)
In Mexico they celebrate El Dia de los Muertos or the Day
of the Dead.
Although celebrated in all Catholic countries as All Saints' and All Souls' Days,
surely no other peoples have embraced the festival of The Day of the Dead to the extent
that the Mexicans have. The celebration begins on the evening of October 31, so the name
Los Dias de los Muertos is also often used. This festival is considered by many to be the
most important holiday of the year in Mexico.