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The History of Halloween

Halloween

Halloween is celebrated on 31 October. Halloween is one of the oldest celebrations in the world, dating back over 2000 years to the time of the Celts who lived in Britain.

Halloween Day celebration owes its origin to the ancient (pre-Christian) Druidic fire festival called “Samhain”, celebrated by the Celts in Scotland, Wales and Ireland. Samhain is pronounced “sow-in”, with “sow” rhyming with cow.

Samhain, or the Feast of the Sun, marked the end of the “season of the sun” (Summer) and the beginning of “the season of darkness and cold”. The Celts believed that evil spirits came with the winter cold and darkness. According to Celts beliefs, on the night of Samhain the barriers between our world and the spirits world were at their weakest and therefore spirits were most likely to be seen on earth.

According to the Irish English dictionary published by the Irish Texts Society: “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 were quartered. Faeries were imagined as particularly active at this season.

In the 7th century, Pope Boniface IV introduced All Saints’ Day to replace the pagan festival of the dead. It was observed on May 13. Later, Gregory III changed the date to November 1. All Saints Day is a day dedicated to all those saints who didn’t have a special day of their own. They performed a mass called ‘All Hallows mass’ and the night before became known as All Hallows Eve and eventually Hallowe’en or Halloween.

So Halloween, or Hallowe’en as they call it in Ireland , means All Hallows Eve, or the night before the ‘All Hallows’, also called ‘All Hallowmas’, or ‘All Saints’, or ‘All Souls’ Day, observed on November 1. In old English the word ‘Hallow’ meant ‘sanctify’.

When Romans conquered England, they marged Samhain with their own festivals, a harvest festival called Poloma and a celebration for the dead called Feralia.

It is thought that the colours orange and black became Halloween colours because orange is associated with harvests (Halloween marks the end of harvest) and black is associated with death.

Halloween is also known by the following names:

  • All Hallows Eve
  • Samhain
  • All Hallowtide
  • The Feast of the Dead
  • The Day of the Dead

Sources: www.theholidayspot.com www.woodlands-junior.kent.sch.uk