The Original Story of Halloween - Part One: from Samhain to Halloween
Halloween is a popular holiday, and it's one of the oldest ones we still celebrate.
Halloween is a night of dressing up in costumes, food and candy, and of course trick or treating. Halloween is also a night of ghosts, goblins and witches. But don't get scared.
Knowing the history of Halloween can make the holiday even more fun!
Halloween is celebrated on the night of October 31st.
A long time ago, October 31st was the last day of the Celtic calendar. The Celts were tribes of people living across Europe since around 1000 years BC.
Have you heard of the Druids? The Druids worshipped the spirits of trees and plants and practiced healing and magic? They were Celts.
The night of Halloween started with the ancient Celtic festival which is called Samhain. It's spelled "Sam-hain" but pronounced "sah-win".
Samhain was a festival. It marked the end of the Celtic harvest season. It marked the beginning of winter and a new year. The date is 1/2 way between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice. Every village made a big fire. Lots of animals were prepared for the feast, and their bones were thrown in the fire. Did you know the word "bonfire" comes from "bone fire"?
This Celtic festival was very important. It allowed for people to get ready for the cold winter. Because it was a night of feasting and bonfires, it was a night for family. And not just your living family!
The Celts believed that on October 31st, the world of the living, and the netherworld of the dead came together. Spirits like ghosts, elves, and fairies could pass to the world of humans.
Because Samhain opened the doors of the spirit world, the Celts believed that the dead could come back to life. They they left their doors open and they left food out for any ancestors who dropped in!
For light they carved faces into turnips and lit them from the bonfire. Does this start to sound a little like Jack O'Lanterns? But not all of the spirits that passed to our world were friendly. Villagers wore masks and costumes to confuse wicked spirits, so the spirits couldn't tell who was who. To add to the confusion, boys would dress as girls and girls would dress as boys. They'd sometimes use the soot from the bonfires to disguise their faces. Does this start to sound a little like Halloween costumes?
The homes were open to befriend any spirits passing by. Villagers would dress in their costumes and go to houses and sing or chant for blessings of food. Does this start to sound a little like trick-or-treating?
But all this was happening before year 0. So how did ancient Samhain become modern Halloween? You'll have to see Part 2!