A Brief History of Halloween

While the origins of Halloween are not entirely clear, is definitely intertwined with religious practices and celebrations of the past. Wiccan and Pagan groups are amongst largest groups who celebrate the holiday, while some Christian groups fear that demonic activity increases around this time of the year. A pre-Christian Celtic holiday called Samhain is thought by many to be the precursor to the holiday, Halloween, we celebrate today. It is difficult to completely trace its origins, as it was Christianized in the fourth or fifth century; we are unsure today what traditions and ideologies were added on because of this. Samhain was a day of heightened spiritual activity, and they believed that fairies, spirits, and souls of the dead could pass through their world to ours much easier that day. To protect themselves from these spirits and possible demons, the Celts would build massive bonfires, they would burn crops, and they wore costumes to ward off the spirits.

giphy[2]However, the Halloween we know today is a concoction of several different, borrowed traditions; many rituals of Halloween we see today are derived from times later than that of Samhain. In the 600s, Pope Boniface IV named November 1st All Saints’ Day to honor saints and martyrs. Some believe that picking that day was deliberately meant; they wanted to Christianize Samhain, which happened just the day before. Despite this coincidence, it is not clear if this was the intention. On All Saints’ Day, people would dress up, possibly to ward off spirits they thought were coming back from the dead. At this time, people in England went around and practiced “souling”, a practice in which they would ask for food and in return would give them a prayer for the dead. This is a possible precursor for trick-or-treating, especially because as time progressed, people would give out the soulers sweet “soul cakes”, mimicking the candy we get today. These are only possible origins for Halloween, as its true ones are not entirely certain or uncovered yet.

Works Cited:

Giphy. “Vintage Halloween.” https://giphy.com/gifs/vintage-halloween-z8UZbZzCPig2A. (accessed October 30, 2017).

Henry, Andrew. “History of Halloween.” ReligionForBreakfast. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZVB5rPfWPtc (accessed October 30, 2017).

Jabaji, Rawan. “Halloween.” Public Broadcasting System. http://www.pbs.org/wnet/need-to-know/five-things/halloween/4594/ (accessed October 30, 2017).

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