Halloween is great fun for all, with a whole host of activities and entertainment available suitable for Adults and Children of any age or budget. But how did we get to what we now know and love as Halloween? We explore the history of Halloween to discover the past behind, and see how we got some of our best love traditions.
Early History & Origins
The Holiday we now call Halloween started life more than 3000 years ago as the ancient Celtic festival known Samhein (“sah-win”). Samhein was celebrated by the Celts, and was originally used to celebrate the end of the Harvest seasons in Gaelic culture and to give pagans the opportunity to take stock of supplies.
During Samhein, many Druid priests were also asked to pray for local families as they faced the increasingly shorter dark days of Winter. This was because ancient Gaels believed that on October 31, the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead were at their thinnest, forcing them to overlap and giving the deceased the opportunity to come back to life and cause havoc such as sickness or damaged crops.
Men, Women and Children all wore Masks and Costumes in an attempt to mimic and appease the evil spirits. With Samhein frequently involving bonfires, bats were attracted to the area lured by the influx of insects drawn to the fire. It is here we see the beginnings of modern day Halloween, with the 31st of October, Costumes and Evil spirits all being linked to the Samhein festival over 3000 years ago.
By 43 A.D, once the Roman Empire had taken the majority of Celtic land and begun to take over their costumes, two Roman festivals (Feralia and Pomona) were combined with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samheim to create a cross-religious festival for commemorating the passing of the dead. By 1000 A.D however, this had now merged into what we now most closely associate with Halloween, with All Souls Day falling on Nov 2nd as a church made alternative to Halloween.
Celebrated on Nov 2nd, this festival of the dead was known as All-hallows (derived from Alholowmesse), with the night before being All-hallows Eve and eventually Halloween. Eventually being brought back to October 31st over time.
Halloween in Modern Times
In recent years Halloween, has been growing at a rapid pace evolving way beyond its Celtic origins. Nowadays, Halloween not only draws upon the original Pagan/Christian festivals, but also involves Trick or Treating, Fancy Dress, as well taking on massive cultural importance with cinema, music, and a whole host of entertainment such as theme parks all focusing heavily around Halloween the entire Autumn period.
Since the turn of the century however, Halloween has even grown at a rate far beyond anyone’s wildest dreams, becoming the 2nd highest grossing commercial after Christmas and accounting for an astonishing one quarter of all annual US candy sales.
But where did Trick or Treating come from?
Trick-or-treating has been traced back to origins of All Souls Day in Britain, where poor Adults and Children would go house to house begging for food and money in exchange for songs and prayers…… the tricks would arrive if they received no food or money! This practice became known and souling with the kids called ‘Soulers.’
This tradition has remained popular in Britain right up until the modern day, only moving into America as late as the 1930s as more and more immigrants went over to this United States for work.
But have we always worn Costumes?
Yes, even since Samhein when the Celts wore masks and costumes as a way of imitating the evil Spirits dressing up has been associated with Halloween. Traditionally however, they were always modelled after supernatural figures such as Vampires, Ghosts, Skeletons and Witches.
Since the 1970s however, as consumer culture grew and people wanted a truly unique costume to show off to their friends, Halloween fancy dress costume traditions developed to include anything and everything as long as it had a scary sub tone.
The 1970s also saw the emergence of the Halloween Horror flick, and can be seen as the decade in which the world decided to turn Halloween into a full-blown Holiday.
The future of Halloween
Expect Halloween to keep on growing! With so many people enjoying it and with that number growing year on year, don’t expect to see Halloween fun slow down at any point soon. Instead expect things to get bigger, better and of course scarier as more and more people hop on the Halloween bandwagon.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our brief Halloween History guide, and don’t forget to read some of the other great guides from our Halloween Hub. The one stop shop for all your Halloween needs.