The history of Halloween

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As I am sure many of you will know, today is Halloween. It’s likely that your streets were littered with decorations and young people enjoying the festivities. It’s even possible you yourself may have been a trick or treater.

The holiday Halloween has become quite a secular celebration, when in fact it means many different things to people of different cultures. The origins of Halloween can be traced back to the ancient Celtic festival, Samhain. As a part of this festival, people would light candles and bonfires to frighten evil spirits and to attract good spirits. They would also wear costumes and disguises to fend off ghosts. Samhain was the last day of the harvest, with the winter season approaching in the northern hemisphere.

Not only was the 31st of October important due to the changing of the seasons but because it was thought that the door between our physical world and the next world (spiritual) became thin. This allowed people to connect with the dead. Another celebration often linked with Halloween is the ‘Day of the Dead.’ this is celebrated in Mexico and throughout Latin America around the 1st or 2nd of November. Like Halloween, the Day of the Dead celebrations involves costumes. The Day of the Dead also focuses on the notion that the boundary between the dead and the living is lifted and that spirits can walk the earth again. However, the Day of the Dead is a celebration of their lives and a time honour loved ones who have passed on who are returning to see their families.

The idea that you can connect with the dead on certain days is also shared in Jewish culture through the holiday of Yom Kippur, which also usually occurs in October. This holiday involves saying prayers for those who have passed and it is where Halloween gains its spooky connotations.

In the eighth century, Pope Gregory the third announced that the 1st of November would be a day in which all saints are honoured. The word Halloween comes from the “All Hallows Eve” which falls the night before All Saints Day which was previously known as All Hallows Day.

To celebrate, people may pray, go to church or refrain from eating meat. Over time, Halloween has evolved to gain some of the aspects of these other holidays. Today we mainly know it for its haunted activities such as trick-or-treating, carving jack-o-lanterns, getting dressed up, and eating treats.

Do you celebrate Halloween? If so let us know what you got up to below!

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