Halloween Origins

Halloween Origins

Halloween – also known as All Saints’ Eve – is a celebration observed in a number of countries on 31 October, the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows’ Day.

It begins the 3-day observance of Allhallowtide – the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints, martyrs and all the faithful departed.

According to BBC Online, it is widely believed that many Halloween traditions originated from the ancient Celtic harvest festival Samhain and that this Gaelic observance was Christianized by the early Church.

Samhain and other such festival had pagan roots.

Some, however, support the view that Halloween began independently of Samhain and has solely Christian roots.

Halloween activities include:

1. Trick-or-treating (or the related guising),

2. Attending Halloween costume parties,

3. Decorating,

4. Carving pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns,

5. Lighting bonfires,

6. Apple bobbing and divination games,

7. Playing pranks,

8. Visiting haunted attractions,

9. Telling scary stories and

10. Watching horror films.

In many parts of the world, the Christian religious observances of All Hallows’ Eve.

Including attending church services and lighting candles on the graves of the dead, remain popular although elsewhere it is a more commercial and secular celebration.

Some Christians historically abstained from meat on All Hallows’ Eve – a tradition reflected in the eating of certain foods on this vigil day – including apples, potato pancakes and soul cakes.

Christian Influence

Today’s Halloween customs are also thought to have been influenced by Christian dogma and practices derived from it.

Halloween is the evening before the Christian holy days of All Hallows’ Day

Also known as All Saints’ or Hallowmas on 1 November and All Souls’ Day on 2 November, thus giving the holiday on 31 October the full name of All Hallows’ Eve.

Since the time of the early Church, major feasts in the Christian Church (such as Christmas, Easter and Pentecost) had vigils which began the night before, as did the feast of All Hallows’.

These 3 days are collectively referred to as Allhallowtide and are a time for honoring the saints and praying for the recently departed souls who have yet to reach Heaven.

All Saints was introduced in the year 609, but was originally celebrated on 13 May, the same date as Lemuria, an ancient Roman festival of the dead.

In 835, it was officially switched to 1 November, the same date as Samhain, at the behest of Pope Gregory IV.

Some suggest this was due to Celtic influence, while others suggest it was a Germanic idea, although it is claimed that both Germanic and Celtic-speaking peoples commemorated the dead at the beginning of winter.

It may have been seen as the most fitting time to do so, as it was when the plants themselves were dying.

It is also suggested that the change was made on the practical grounds that Rome in summer could not accommodate the great number of pilgrims who flocked to it.

And perhaps because of public health considerations regarding Roman Fever – a disease that claimed a number of lives during the sultry summers of the region. 

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