We all know Halloween, the day of disguises and of the famous “Trick or Treat”, but how many of us know the TRUE history of Halloween?
Halloween is not a Christian festivity, but the word “Halloween” has Catholic origins. In the Catholic tradition, in fact, 1st November, “All Saints’Day”, has also an ancient denomination: “All Hallows’ Day”. Among the ancients, All Saints’ Day began from the sunset of the previous evening, and therefore 31st October was called “All Hallows’ Eve”, but also “All Hallows’ Evening”, which was shortened to Hallows’ Even, then to Hallow-e’en and eventually to Halloween.
However, the celebration of Halloween has Celtic origins. For the Celts, the year began on 1st November: the day of the end of the “hot season” and the beginning of the “dark and cold season”. The night between 31st October and 1st November was called “Samhain Night”. Celts believed that Samhain, the “Lord of Death”, the “Prince of Darkness”, summoned the SPIRITS OF THE DEAD. It was the most important festivity in the Celtic calendar.
A legend tells that all the dead of the previous year returned on Earth on 31st October, searching for a new body to own. Therefore, the Celts put outside their home a fire to keep evil spirits away. They also put a Sacred Fire on altars and put on the New Fire the next morning. They made sacrifices to the New Fire (animals, especially CATS, which they believed to be possessed by evil spirits) to calm down the gods, then they dressed up with the skins of the sacrificed animals and celebrated for 3 days, bringing lanterns of carved turnips or onions with the embers of the sacred fire.
As the Catholic Church could not eradicate this pagan cult, in 835 Pope Gregory moved All Saints’ Day from 13th May to 1st November, attempting to give a new meaning to the pagan cult. However, the negative influence of the worship of Samhain was not eradicated, and for this reason the Church established a new holiday: 2nd November, All Souls’ Day, in memory of the souls of the deceased who were celebrated by their relatives, who would light bonfires masquerading as saints, angels and devils.
The ancient Celtic ritual of the Sacred Fire still survives in England, where on 5thNovember Guy Fawkes Day is celebrated. But that’s another story… 😉
And you? Did you know the true story of Halloween? Comment below and let us know what you think about Halloween and its story!