is generally believed to originate from the Celts about 2,000 years ago.
The Celts were tribes in England and Northern France. When the Celts
first started to settle down into villages, farming and cattle were the
two major sources of food. Raising cattle was easy. On May first, you
drove the cattle out into your field. On November first, you brought
them back into the barn for the winter. Your entire year was two seasons
- growing season and winter, life and death, beltane and samhain.
For them, the first of November was Samhain (pronounced
"SAW-en"), a festival of the dead, and a joyful harvest festival that
marked the end of the summer. During this part of the year, food grew scarce and
the plants all died. The day itself was a time for paying homage to the sun god
Baal, who provided the people with the ripened grain for use in the upcoming
winter. It was believed that on this day, between the old year and the new one,
that the dead could walk the earth again. Spirits of those who had died during
that year gathered that night, driven out of the bare woods and empty fields.
This was not a fearful time as most of them considered the spirits to be guides
to help them through life. The spirits returned to their homes, and needed the
help of their kin to cross over to the land of the dead. Many people lit fires
to guide the good spirits to them and to keep the evil ones away. Relatives
would hollow out turnips and gourds and use them to carry the spirits to the
Evil spirits, witches and goblins also roamed the earth on Samhain. To
protect your relative's spirit, you'd paint a scary face on a gourd to chase the
evil spirits away. To protect yourself, you'd also disguise yourself by painting
your face with hideous paints or donning a wild costume.
In 43 AD, the Roman Empire conquered the Celts. Celts and Romans found
themselves living in the same villages. Some
believe that the popular customs of Halloween show traces of the Roman harvest
festival of Pomona, and of Druidism. These influences are inferred from the use
of nuts and apples as traditional Halloween foods, and from the figures of
witches, black cats, and skeletons commonly associated with the occasion. The colors of black and orange associated with Halloween today, were originated from
this time, representing Death and
Pope Boniface 4th felt that as long as the old festivals were
still celebrated the church's control wasn't complete. Sometime during the
fourth century, as Christianity was getting stronger, the Roman Church in
England tried to stop the pagan ritual. Unable to do so, Pope Boniface decided
to replace the old festival with a new festival.
The church created All Saints' Day; a holy day to honor all saints.
The problem with All Saints' Day was it was a holy day not a festival.
Also, being held in May, people simply celebrated both holidays. Two hundred
years later, the church had still not succeeded in getting rid of the pagan
holiday. Pope Gregory the 3rd had a new idea. He changed the rules so
that All Saints' day always fell on the exact day as Samhain. To celebrate All
Saints' Day, young men were to go door to door begging for food for the town
poor. Villagers were allowed to dress up in costume to represent a saint. Now,
instead of dressing up to chase away evil spirits, you dressed up to honor
For the next 700 years, the
Church felt it had won the battle because the Celts celebrated All Saints' Day.
The Celts, on the other hand, thought they had won because they still had their
holiday with the original ceremonies. Neither realized that Samhain and All
Saints' Day were blurring into one holiday. By the 1500's, you couldn't separate
the two anymore. Of course, by this time, no one called it All Saints' Day. Now,
it was All Hallows' Day. The night before All Hallows' Day, was of course, All
Hallows' Evening. In the slang of the villagers, it was Hallow Evening, or
The original festival for the pagan Lord of the Dead became a festival of
Christian dead. In the 10th century, the church named Nov. 2nd as All
Souls' Day, in memory of all dead souls. Halloween, All Saints' Day and All
Souls' Day come so close together and are so similar that in some countries they
tend to merge together.
In the late 1800's, nearly 7.4 million immigrants came to America,
bringing their European customs with them. Seven hundred thousand Irish
Catholics came over during the seven-year potato famine alone. These immigrants
may have brought their customs with them, but once they saw how plentiful
pumpkins were in the New World, it didn't take them long to start hollowing out
jack-o’-lanterns instead of turnips.
In 1921, Anoka, Minnesota celebrated the first official citywide
observation of Halloween with a pumpkin bowl, a costumed square dance and two
parades. After that, it didn't take Halloween long to go nationwide. New York
started celebrating in 1923 and LA in 1925.