Monday, October 31, 2011


Happy Halloween, everyone! It's officially October 31st... And one of my absolute favorite holidays.
Candy day.
Dress up as someone else day.
Harass strangers day.

It's just an epic holiday, in my opinion.

Now, don't get me wrong. There are definitely people who think I'm too old to get dressed up and trick-or-treat, because I'm a teenager, and it's a "little kid" holiday, and all that.

But is it really?

According to, Halloween started out with the Celts, whose new year began on November 1st- the day after October 31st. They also believed that the night before the new year was when the line between the living and the dead was blurred.

Thus you must have a ritual. (This was the celebration of Samhain.)

The Celtic druids would conduct this celebration or ritual, mainly by starting the bonfires. Then, the villagers would extinguish the fires in their houses, and go and dance around the bonfire. The celebration/holiday included worshipping their deities by sacrificing animals and grains... By throwing them into the bonfires. They also dressed up in animal skins, probably starting the tradition of costumes that is still practiced today.

According to most things I've read, (read: this one and this one), the way that the Celts would protect themselves from spirits would be to take an ember from the sacred bonfires (on November 1st) and use it to re-start the hearth fires in their houses. This would supposedly protect them during the time of "cold and dark", and keep the evil spirits away from their homes.

The next development in the history of Halloween was when the Romans invaded and took over where the Celts lived. They had several celebrations of their own that took place in the cold months, namely Feralia, which actually took place sometime in early February, and the celebration of Pomona. Although the date of the celebration of Pomona herself is unknown, she apparently shared a feast day with her husband, sometime in August. Although neither of these are particularly near to the Celtic festival of Samhain, they ended up being more or less combined.

Of course, another chapter in the history of Halloween came with the arrival of Christianity. One of the well known trends for the Catholic church is to take the pagan holiday, add a Christian spin on it, package it up with a new name, and then hand it back to the people.

This is no different.

The original All Saints Day was in May, but the church changed it to November 1st. This was also called "All Hallows", meaning that the day was holy. (Hallows- to make holy.) The second day in November was later also made into a holy day- all saint's day. (Or, if you're like the cemetery across from my house, just call the whole weekend "Cemetery Sunday").

Of course, old traditions don't disappear quickly... Especially ones that have been around since the Celts. The night before All Saint's Day continued to be celebrated, as "All Hallows Evening". Another name for "Evening" was "even", which was then added to the end of "Hallows" as a sort of ancient lingo. This was later shortened again to "All Hallowe'en" and then later to "Halloween".

Of course, the tradition that I celebrate here is quite different from the celebration that was practiced in old Europe. As Halloween traveled to the "New World", there were definitely some alterations. Pranks became more popular, as did the emphasis on neighbors and community. This latter aspect was especially helped by the immigrants from various countries. Various traditions also developed- the religious aspect began to sink away as the idea of "trick-or-treating" and just fun began to emerge as more important. By the 1930's, parents were discouraging the superstious bits and the "grotesque" bits, and encouraging more good-humored fun.

However, this is also when vandalism and more pranks began to become a problem.

To encourage the chance that their house would not be pranked, families started "paying off" the pranksters... By giving them candy or money. This is another tradition that obviously survives today, only with the name "trick-or-treating", and not, "let's-buy-off-the-neighboorhood-kids-so-they-don't-egg-our-house".

So, the tradition of Samhaim still continues today, although in a diluted and very different way. Each time another culture comes into contact with the tradition, it seems to alter it. Today's halloween, for example, is quite different from the religious "All Hallow's Eve" which is in turn very different from the Roman celebration of Ponoma.

I wouldn't change a thing.

(Sources:'s thing on Halloween.'s thing on on Pomona.'s thing on Feralia.)

Like it? Figures that I'd write a history of Halloween, doesn't it? I never do anything fun like Linda did, do I. Nope.
I mean, I do have a creepy story. But it was technically for a contest. (Not that I'll enter it as an actual entry... The minimum word count for short story is 3,000, and mine barely hits 600... but I'm still sending it to the runner, because I wrote it for her... blah). So I won't be putting it up until my friend gets it. :)
And yes.
I have a costume.
A really awesome costume.
But I probably won't get pictures up for a few days, because I probably won't have much time tonight... If I do have time, though, I'll put the pictures up. Okay?

But anyway, Happy Halloween. Or Reformation day, if you celebrate that instead. ;)

And a song for y'all...

1 comment:

Cat said...

This post was fascinating, I didn't know that much about the history of Halloween and I love it so that was super cool to know.

And I think this post is equally cool or more cool to mine, so there. *just caught that part* Also can't wait to read your story when you do post it! :)

happy halloween!!