The Celtic Druid Samhain Festival
The Celts had two important deities, the sun god and the god of the dead. The latter’s day was celebrated on November 1. This was also the first day of the New Year. The festival was called Samhain.
Even when the Roman Empire ruled, the festival was maintained. As was usually the case in the Empire, the Celtic elements were mixed with those of Roman myths. This included the worship of Pomona, goddess of fruits. It’s been pointed out that the origin of Halloween customs like bobbing for apples came from this Celtic / Roman fusion.
The Festival in Christian Europe
The custom in early Christian Europe was to set their celebrations on pagan days. Pope Gregory III declared that November 1 as the day of Christian martyrs. The reason the date was chosen isn’t clear, but some believe that it was to make people forget about the Celtic (pagan) festival. Some years later, November 2 was declared the Christian day of the dead.
All Hallow’s Eve
November 1 came to be known as All Saints’ or All Hallows’ Day. November 2 became known as All Souls Day. The true origin of Halloween lies in the christening of the night of October 31 as All Hallow’s Eve. In time, All Hallow’s Eve became known as Hallow’s Eve and eventually Hal o’ ween.
Customs and Beliefs
Even though the Celtic myth was forgotten, the beliefs remained. During the Middle Ages the Europeans believed that demons, spirits and witches flew around the skies on Oct. 31. Fairies were also said to roam the area. During this time, people would go to fortune tellers. Rituals for communicating with the dead also took place.
One of the most popular customs included leaving presents or sweets at their doorsteps. This was meant to appease the fairies and other little people. If not, the fairies might burn their house. Over time, this played a vital part in the evolution and origin of Halloween. It came to be known as trick or treat.
As the Europeans made their way to the New World, they brought their beliefs and practices with them. The threats from the fairies were replaced by the trick or treat and became popular with kids. Bobbing for apples and jack o lantern were Irish practices that were imported to America.
The Event Today
Today the festival is one of the most popular in the Untied States. Kids of all ages dress up in scary costumes and go trick and treating. Stores and shopping malls sell merchandise, toys and costumes just for the occasion. Horror themed movies, TV specials and books come out around this time.
Whatever the origin of Halloween, there seems little doubt that it’s here to stay. It’s also becoming popular in other Asian countries too. What was once a day feared in medieval Europe has become one of the most eagerly anticipated occasions by children.