The Origins of Halloween


Photo courtesy: Sage Goddess

Halloween is a holiday that many love, as it is a good beginning to fall. Kids look forward to dressing up, creating a costume, and going around with friends and family to collect candy from neighbors. For adults, these same excitements are there, and it creates a sense of nostalgia as some still dress up and/or go to parties, or give out candy to kids. However, even with all of the Halloween hype, many people still don’t know the origins of this holiday and how it became what it is today.

Halloween has roots in an ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, which is a celebration of the harvest season at the beginning of fall and end of summer–originating in the Pagan religion. During this celebration, they would, in some cases, wear “costumes” to ward ghosts or bad spirits/energies off for this transition of seasons; this is where the dressing up part of Halloween comes from. They also had bonfires and other celebrations during Samhain. Later on, in the eighth century, some of these same traditions from Samhain were incorporated into All Saints Day, which was a time made by Pope Gregory III to honor saints, on November 1st. The evening before this became known as All Hallows Eve, which is what later became Halloween.

There are many traditions that people participate in before and during Halloween, and there are origins to these just like the roots of dressing up in costumes. Carving pumpkins, or jack-o-lanterns, is one that is said to have originated in Ireland to frighten evil spirits away with the scary faces. It started with turnips instead of pumpkins, and it was based on a legend of someone named Stingy Jack who had a deal with the devil to avoid going to hell. The legend goes on to say how heaven didn’t want him either, so he was left to wander the earth and was given a carved out turnip with a fire inside as a lantern to light his path wherever he went. Some other traditions, such as seeing ghosts and wearing scary costumes, have similar meanings as to ward off evil or stay clear of it. 

Trick-or-treating is thought to have a few possible origins from different cultures, some of which also come from practices that existed during Samhain. They would set food out as offerings from the harvest to any spirits. Others are more like what it is today, where children dress up and go to their neighbors to have them guess their identity. If they couldn’t, they would be given treats and such. 

Quite a few of the other traditions or superstitions about Halloween are the same in roots and origin. A lot can be traced back to Samhain, like the colors black and orange and the correlation those colors have with Halloween. Many traditions were created to ward spirits or evil away; however, some of these are just superstitions such as black cats, bats, and other “scary” things.