The holiday celebrates everything spooky and mysterious, which is very appealing to many people. There are also a number of fun activities that can be enjoyed during Halloween weekend, such as trick or treating, costume parties, and haunted houses. But what is the history of Halloween?
Halloween is celebrated mostly in America, but not so many people know about its origins, how it developed, and how it’s different from what it used to be many years ago. This is by no means an exhaustive resource, just a brief history of what was once called Samhain.
Halloween is one of the oldest holidays in the world, and it has a long and fascinating history. According to some sources, Halloween dates back to ancient Celtic celebrations such as Samhain, which were held on October 31st. During these festivals, people would wear costumes and go trick or treating.
Samhain is the Celtic festival marking the end of summer and the beginning of winter and throughout the Celtic territory, it’s one of the main celebrations the druids celebrated four big holy days, Samhain, Oimelc, Beltane & Lughnasadh. They were referred to as the fire festivals, as for the celts fire was a symbol of divinity, truth, and beauty. Samhain marked the end of the harvest and the stocking of the supplies for the winter; it was the most important of all, and it probably marked the Celtic New Year. They lit up fires and frequently threw bones from the livestock in them, and they also used costumes or masks, to imitate the spirits or to placate them. Samhain was the beginning of the dark period of the year, the hard winter that was to come.
The name Halloween comes from All Hallows’ Even, as it’s the eve of “All Hallows’ Day”, also known as All Saints’ Day. It was a pagan celebration, but some popes tried to blend it with the Christian religion, and the result was that All Saints’ Day and Halloween were celebrated on the same day, despite the fact that they are now celebrated at the distance of a day. Today there are many symbols that surround Halloween, the most well-known being of course the carved pumpkin, also called the jack-o’-lantern. These lanterns have their origin in Europe, and they were at first carved from turnips. The name also comes from a European legend. A gambling and hard-drinking farmer, called Stingy Jack tricked the devil into climbing a tree and then locked him there by carving a cross on the tree. The devil then tricked him to wander the night only with what light he had with him, which was of course carved from a turnip. Today, it’s much easier to carv in pumpkins.
Halloween is also very popular in Europe, especially in Ireland, where it originated from. Samhain is the time when the dead visit the living, and large bonfires are lit in order to prevent evil spirits from doing anything… evil. Just as in the US, where people dress up in ghosts, spirits, monsters, etc. This started as it was a bay to blend in with the spirits, but then it just turned into trick or treating.
Andrei's background is in geophysics, and he's been fascinated by it ever since he was a child. Feeling that there is a gap between scientists and the general audience, he started ZME Science -- and the results are what you see today.