The Story Behind Halloween
The beginnings of Halloween can be traced back to 2,000 years ago at the ancient Celtic Festival of Samhain. The Celts lived in what is now known as Ireland, the UK, and France. For them, a new year began every November 1st.
November 1st marked the end of the summer harvest and the beginning of winter. The Celts believed that the night before the new year, the line between the living and the dead dissipated, and the ghosts of the dead returned to Earth. Therefore, they began holding the Samhain Festival, a festival where they built towering bonfires and wore costumes made out of animal skins. At the end of the festival, the Celts would then re-light their hearths, which they believed would protect them from the upcoming harsh conditions of winter.
By 43 A.D, the Roman Empire had overtaken the Celtic lands. This resulted in the merging of both Roman and Celtic festivals of celebration. One of these Roman festivals was called Feralia, which took place in late October. On this day, the Romans honored the dead. The second festival was held in honor of Ponoma, the Goddess of fruit and trees. Ponoma is symbolized by an apple, which is why we go "bobbing for apples" to this day.
By 1000 A.D, the Christian Church made November 2nd All Souls' Day, a day during which the dead were honored and commemorated. The festivities held on All Souls' Day were very similar to the Samhain festival and were known as "All-hallows" or "All-hallowmas." The night before it became known as "All-Hallow's Eve" which became what we know today - Halloween!
During the second half of the 19th Century, immigration rose in America. This was partly due to the Irish Potato Famine, which caused millions of Irish to come here. All of these new immigrants helped make Halloween what it is today. Finally, in the late 1800's, there was a push to make Halloween based more on community and less on religion and superstition. This is why we make Halloween a holiday of parties, games, and dressing up!