Every year when fall comes around, we are reminded of many things: leaves changing colors, carving pumpkins, apple cider, and for a lot of us, Halloween. Halloween has evolved since the tradition first started centuries ago.
Halloween first started with the ancient Gaelic festival of Samhain, a fire festival in Europe. As October ended, witches, druids and other pagans would celebrate the end of harvest and the beginning of the colder months. Samhain is also the beginning of the spiritual years for many observers. It symbolizes Death and the constant lifecycle.
With the spread of Christianity, Samhain came to be known by some other names: All Saints’ Day, or All Hallows Day to commemorate Christian saints and martyrs. All Hallows Day was held on Nov. 1, while All Souls Day was the day after to celebrate the lost souls of loved ones. When Christianity spread to Mexico, the tradition of Day of the Dead was also mixed into these religious festivals. Observers believed that at this time of year, the barrier to the other side was especially thin, so it became easier to connect with the dead.
Halloween is derived from All Hallow’s Eve and is observed as we know it on October 31st every year. As Christianity spread more, the Pagan beginnings of Halloween drifted away and the spirit of Halloween became much more pop culture centered.
Many of modern day Halloween activities started with the Pagans. The carving of jack-o-lanterns was originally gourds because that’s all they had access to. Even bobbing for apples has symbolic meaning. Apples were meant to symbolize a woman’s suitor, and the apple she bit would be her future husband. Trick or treating originally started as children dressing up as saints and asking for ‘soul cakes’. These costumes started off as saintly until a group of Scottish pranksters had the idea to dress up in scary costumes. From here, Halloween got its spooky roots.
Regardless of if you celebrate Halloween or not, we hope you got dressed up in fake blood and prosthetics and spooked your friends!