The origin of Halloween lies in the traditions of the Celtic people.
The Celts coalesced as a society circa 800 BCE. They were located in what is now the
United Kingdom, much of Western Europe and an isolated enclave in what is now Turkey. They
held a major celebration near the end of our month of October, which they called called
"Samhain," a festival to recognize the end of summer. There seeems to
be little standardization in the pronounciation of "Samhain." Sam-hane, Sow-in,
sow-en, sow-an, soow-an, sow-ween, etc. 1 The story that "Samhain" was a Celtic God of the Dead
appears to be a
However, it has been repeated so often by conservative Christian and secular sources that
it has taken on a life of its own.
The Celts believed that the veil between this world and the next was thinnest at this time
of year. Friends and relatives who had died would often return, with their souls
inhabiting an animal - often a black cat. Black cats have remained a symbol of Halloween
down to the present time.
In celebration of the recently completed harvest, Celts would give offerings of food to
the Gods. They often went from door to door to collect food to donate to their deities.
Also, young Celts would ask the townspeople for kindling and wood, and take it to top of
the hill for the Samhain bonfire. These are two of the possible origins of present day
"trick or treating."
Samhain was a fire festival. Sacred bonfires were lit on hill tops in honor of
the Gods. The townspeople would take an ember from the bonfire to their home and re-light
the fire in their family hearth. The ember would usually be carried in a holder -- often a
turnip or gourd. They felt nervous about walking home in the dark; they were afraid of
evil spirits. So they dressed up in costumes and carved scary faces in their ember
holders. They hoped that the spirits would be frightened and not bother them. Children
continue to dress up today in various costumes. Pumpkins are now the objects of choice
into which to carve faces.
There are many folk traditions associated with Halloween. It is possible that some had
their origins in Celtic times.
Jack-o'-lantern: The term "Jack-o'-lantern" came from an Irish folk
tale of the 18th century. Jack was an Irishman. He had tricked the Devil into climbing an
apple tree. He then cut a cross symbol in the tree trunk, thus trapping the Devil in the
branches. When Jack died, he was unable to again access to Heaven because of his meanness.
The Devil, having a long memory, would not allow him into Hell. So he was forced to walk
the earth endlessly. The devil took pity on him and gave him a piece of coal to light his
path. Jack put it inside a hollowed-out turnip that he had been eating.
Apples were considered have long been associated with female deities, and with
immortality, resurrection, and knowledge. One reason is that if an apple is cut through
its equator, it will reveal a five-pointed star outlined at the center of each hemisphere.
This was a pentagram -- a Goddess symbol among the
Roma (Gypsies), ancient Celts, ancient Egyptians,
modern-day Wiccans, etc. There are many
Halloween folk traditions associated with apples:
Unmarried people would attempt to take a bite out of an apple bobbing in a pail of
water, or suspended on a string. The first person to do so was believed to be the next person to
Peeling an apple in front of a candle-lit mirror was believed to produce the image of
one's future spouse. 2
Attempting to produce a long unbroken apple peel was said to estimate the number of
years you had to live. The longer the peel, the longer your life expectancy.
In All Souls' Day, some European Christians had a tradition of going from home to home,
asking for soul cakes, or currant buns. In return, they would pray for the souls of the
Origins of Christian holy days:
All Saints' Day was created by Pope Boniface IV in the 7th century CE. There were
so many saints by this time that there were not enough days in the year to accommodate
all of them. So, All Saints' Day was created to recognize the saints who were without
their own day, and
also to celebrate saints that the Church had failed to recognize. It originally was held on May
13, but was moved in 835 CE by Pope Gregory to November 1. This may have
been done in order to distract Christians
from celebrating Samhain.
Halloween was originally called All Hallows' Eve which means the evening
before All Saints' Day. "Hallow" is an Old English word for "saint".
This was shortened to Hallowe'en and finally to Halloween.Satanists have adopted Hallowe'en as one of their three main
seasonal days of celebration. The others are Walpurgus Nacht on MAY-1 and the Satanist's
All Souls' Day was created for NOV-2 to honor faithful Christians who had died
but were not saints. The three days from OCT-31 to NOV-2 was given the name Hallow Tide.
Halloween in North America
Halloween has become a major folk holiday in the US and Canada. "Trick or Treaters"
go from door to door and collect candies, apples and other goodies.
Hallmark Cards reports that 65% of Americans will decorate their homes and
offices for Halloween. This percentage is exceeded only by Christmas.
Some interesting facts about the celebration of Halloween:
Halloween is the holiday when the most candy is sold; it is second
only to Christmas in total sales. North Americans spend over $20 million on
Halloween candies yearly. 3
Halloween is the third-largest party occasion next to Christmas and
New Year's Eve.
Halloween is the Number 1 season for selling humorous greeting cards.
In North America, some 25 million Halloween cards are sold annually. 3
Rumors circulated some years ago that some evil people were
distributing adulterated food to children: poison mixed with candy; razor
blades and pins in apples. Although these rumors have
generally been shown to
be hoaxes, the fear persists. Many adults now only give out pre-packaged food; many
parents check their children's collection and discard anything that could
possibly have been
For many decades, the United Nations Children's' Fund (UNICEF) has distributed
boxes to children so that they can collect money at Halloween time. During the 1950's, a
few US public schools banned the UNICEF boxes, over suspicions that it might be a
The town of Hancock, MD has refused for more than 20 years to declare a specific date
for Halloween. Their rationale was that if they set a particular date and a child gets hurt
during the trick-or-treating, then the town might be liable for damages.
The school board
of Hillsborough NJ banneds all religious celebrations in its schools. So, they have replaced
Halloween with a "Fall Festival". St. Valentine's day has become "Special
In many jurisdictions, Halloween is held on Saturday, OCT-30 when OCT-31
falls on a Sunday. This is to avoid direct conflict between Halloween
celebrations and church services.