The History of Halloween

It’s almost that time again. Things are about to go bump in the night. Spook masters would have you believe that the dead actually walk the earth on that day, but Halloween is as much a matter of shadows and mirrors as the horror movies we watch. For anyone interested, here is a history of the modern day holiday known as Halloween.

First of all, it was called All Hallows Eve. We are not speaking of Sleepy Hollow. Hallow means holy, like in The Lord’s Prayer for all the Sunday schoolers out there.

Early pagan religions specifically the Celts would celebrate different phases of the earth. One such festival was Samhain. It is pronounced “saw-in.” it was a festival that commemorated the lives of the dead. There was nothing wrong with this, except that they didn’t discriminate between the “good” dead and the “bad” dead. People remembered all of the dead. The date that this festival fell on was October 31st.

Isn’t sounding too scary so far is it? Well, you must remember that early pagan religions were prone to superstition as in the Middle Ages. They were afraid of spirits and the thought of them returning to the human world frightened them.

As history goes, during this time, priests of the religion would contact these spirits to divine the future of the harvest as this was also harvest season. People’s livelihood depended on those crops and they were afraid that the spirits would curse them and destroy the crops.

The church decided to combat such superstition by adding a bit of Christianity to the occasion. They moved the celebration of All Saints Day from March 13th to November 1st. People would hopefully be less scared and more into the Christian celebration than the pagan one.

Everyone didn’t change their long held beliefs however. People would cover their faces with masks when they went out at night in hopes that any roaming spirits would recognize them as fellow travelers and suspend their mischief. They also used large carved turnips with candles inside as lanterns.

All Hallows Eve became Halloween in modern times. Instead of walking through the veil between this world and the next, kids dress in a variety of costumes to scare each other silly and get a bit of candy in the process. The only spirits around on Halloween are the ones we create on the movie set. Watch out!

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