The Origins of the Festival: Halloween seems to have grown around the ancient Gaelic festival of Samhain, marking the end of the light half of the year and the beginning of the dark half. Samhain was in part a sort of harvest festival, when the last crops were gathered in for the winter, and livestock killed and stored. But the pagan Celts also believed it was a time when the walls between our world and the next became thin and porous, allowing spirits to pass through. A celebration much like our Halloween, with bonfires and feasting on apples and nuts and harvest fruits, was part of pagan worship for centuries. The Britons celebrated in honor of their sun-god with bonfires, a tribute to the light that brought them abundant harvest. At the same time they saluted Samhain, their "lord of death," who was thought to gather together at last the souls of the year's dead which had been consigned to the bodies of animals in punishment for their sins. The practice of wearing spooky costumes may have its roots in that belief: dressing up as a ghost to scare off other ghosts seems to have been the idea. The Romans celebrated the same kind of festival at this time in honor of their goddess Pomona, a patroness of fruits and gardens.
About All Hallows Eve
It was in the eighth century that the Catholic Church appointed a special date for the feast of All Saints, followed by a day in honor of her soon-to-be saints, the feast of All Souls. She chose this time of year, it is supposed, because in her part of the world it was the time of barrenness on the earth. The harvest was in, the summer done, the world brown and drab and mindful of death. Snow had not yet descended to comfort and hide the bony trees or blackened fields; so with little effort man could look about and see a meditation on death and life hereafter.
Apparently how you spent the vigil of All Saints depended on where you lived in Christendom. In Brittany the night was solemn and without a trace of merriment. On their "night of the dead" and for forty-eight hours thereafter, the Bretons believed the poor souls were liberated from Purgatory and were free to visit their old homes. The vigil for the souls, as well as the saints, had to be kept on this night because of course the two days were consecutive feasts and a vigil is never kept on a feast.
Families prayed by their beloveds' graves during the day, attended church for "black vespers" in the evening and in some parishes proceeded thence to the charnel house in the cemetery to pray by the bones of those not yet buried or for whom no room could be found in the cemetery. Here they sang hymns to call on all Christians to pray for the dead and, speaking for the dead, they asked prayers and more prayers. It was in Ireland and Scotland and England that All Hallows' Eve became a combination of prayer and merriment. Following the break with the Holy See, Queen Elizabeth forbade all observances connected with All Souls' Day. In spite of her laws, however, customs survived; even Shakespeare in his Two Gentlemen of Verona has Speed tell Valentine that he knows he is in love because he has learned to speak "puling like a beggar at Hallowmas."
Where the Name Comes From
The name Hallowe’en is a shortening of All Hallows’ Even, or All Hallows’ Evening. All Hallows is an old term for All Saints’ Day (Hallow, from the Old English “halig”, or holy, compared with Saint, from the Latin “sanctus”, also meaning holy, or consecrated). In the original Old English, it was known as Eallra H?lgena aefen.
The classic Hallowe’en jack-o’-lantern, a carved grinning pumpkin, is both a new and an ancient practice. Originally, it seems to have come from an old Irish legend of a man called Stingy Jack, a miserly farmer who played a trick on the devil but was too stingy to go to Heaven and too clever to go to hell, so as punishment was cursed to wander the earth, lighting his way with a candle inside a hollowed-out turnip. When the tradition moved to America pumpkins were used instead of turnips.
Trick or Treat
On All Saints’ Day. The idea would be that the beggars would say prayers for the souls of the dead in exchange for food. “Guising”, disguising oneself as a ghoul to fool evil spirits, also took place. Begging at the door grew from an ancient English custom of knocking at doors to beg for a "soul cake" in return for which the beggars promised to pray for the dead of the household. Whether this directly led to the practice of children dressing up as scarecrows and ghosts and going door-to-door demanding sweets with menaces is unclear. It is possible that the tradition emerged independently in America. The first recorded use of the phrase “trick or treat” stems from 1927.
Thank you for visiting. Wishing you Peace today and everyday.