If you grew up around people who joyously celebrated Halloween by dressing in costumes and yelling “trick or treat” for candy, you may not have known the meaning of what the holiday means. If you found out as an adult what it really means, would you continue to celebrate it by dressing up and letting you own kids go trick or treating? What exactly is the history behind the holiday?
Halloween is also known as All Hallows Eve and All Saints Day. All Hallows Eve is to celebrate and honor the “lord of death”, or the Samhain. On the other hand, All Saints Day is a day to honor all gods, or “saints”. It began with people known as the Celtics who lived in what is now England, Ireland, Wales, and Scotland over 2000 years ago. This was also the beginning of the Celtic new year, a time to give thanks to the sun god for the harvest and to celebrate the end of summer.
Just to give some background on the history, “All Hallows Eve” was observed on May 13th at first, and was known as the All Hallows Festival to honor the hallowed saints. However, the day was moved to November 1st to coincide with Samhain (the lord of death) and was officially authorized by Pope Gregory IV in 835. All Hallows Eve is now celebrated on October 31st, the eve of All Saints Day (or the Feast of All Saints) — which used to be called All Hallows. In the 7th century, “All Saints Day” originated when “the Pantheon (Greek word for “all gods”) at Rome was taken from the barbarians, made into a cathedral, and renamed the Church of the Blessed Virgin and All Martyrs,” according to the source listed below. “Thus, from honoring “all gods” the Pantheon became the center for glorifying all saints. The celebration in the Roman Catholic Church, which was later to merge with Samhain, was known as All Saints’ Day.”
It is interesting to note that the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead) is also celebrated on All Saints Day (November 1) as well as All Souls Day (November 2nd).
Ever wonder why black cats were considered a part of Halloween tradition? While cats were celebrated, and worshiped by the ancient Egyptians, they were feared by the Celtics. They believed that black cats possessed demonic powers. What about jack-o-lanterns? Did you know that in America, we have the pumpkin, but in Europe they used potatoes, beets, and even a skull with a candle in it? In America it’s a pumpkin, but in Europe it was often a turnip, large beet, potato, rutabaga or even a skull with a candle in it. The fearsome face of the jack-o-lantern was representative of the god of the dead, Shaman, who would drive off less powerful evil spirits abroad that night. That is why the jack-o-lantern is considered a Halloween classic of an ancient symbol that represents demonic superstition.
Whether you choose to celebrate Halloween is based on you and your beliefs. Some people take it seriously, and others just have fun with it. Just know the history behind the holiday, be safe, and enjoy your candy! It is up to you to decide if Halloween is a “trick”, or a “treat”!