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The origins of Halloween

The first record of what we now know as Halloween dates back to the ancient Celts, who called it “Samhain”. The ancient civilisation would don their scariest outfits to ward off spirits.

They did this in preparation for their new year, which began on November 1st, when they believed the cold dark winter to begin. During harsh winters crops would become sparse, and food could be scarce.

Druids, the religious leaders of the Celts, believed the lines between the living and the dead thinned on this eve. So, they dressed in animal hides and heads, while lighting huge bonfires to honour the dead, a drive off a cruel winter.

They sacrificed animals, and in exchange they believed the spirits had told them prophesies. This gave hope to a society who had nothing else to rely on, bar these fortunes.

However, when the Romans overthrew the Celts, they destroyed all their traditions. The Roman empire mucked around with the holiday and replaced it. They switched it out for their own honouring of the dead, and the celebration of their goddess of fruits and trees.

Fast forward to the 7th century and the Christian reclamation of the holiday. Pope Boniface IV created the honouring of the saints, now on May 13th. Another century goes by, and another Pope is in charge, Pope Gregory III. He switched around the date again to November 1st.  He renamed the day “Hallows Eve”, meaning “Holy night”.

So, we have a Pope to thank for the name and the Celts for the traditions themselves. The Romans came up with the apple bobbing and candied apples, due to their goddess of fruits and trees festival.

All in all I think we can all agree that the origins of Halloween are long and enriches with a melting pot of cultures. But most importantly it is a fun festivity for all ages to gather round and celebrate, in whichever way they choose to enjoy.

Now you know the origins of Halloween, why not consider a trip to some places to help get you in the mood for spooky season?  You could head off to West Virginia, USA to track down the Mothman, or you decide to pay a visit to Transylvania, Romania to visit Dracula’s castle. Even if you’re staying at home, have a happy Halloween.

Author notes

Written by Anastasia Rolland
Edited by Russell Wallace, Content Creator at AllClear