What is Halloween?
Halloween or Hallowe’en (a contraction of All Hallows’ Evening), also known as Allhalloween, All Hallows’ Eve, or All Saints’ Eve, is a celebration observed in a number of countries on October 31, the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows’ Day.
Why do we celebrate Halloween?
Every year we wear scary outfits, bob for apples and carve pumpkins – but why?
The Americanised (Americanized?) Halloween that we experience now actually originated in the Celtic fringes of Britain, and was adapted by Christian traditions, immigrants’ conventions and an insatiable desire for sweets.
The word comes from ‘Hallowed evening’, and is the day before All Hallows Day – also known as All Saints’ Day.
What is the history behind Halloween?
The origin of the festival is disputed, and there are both pagan and Christian practices that have evolved into what Halloween is like today.
Some believe it originates from the Celtic pagan festival of Samhain, meaning ‘Summer’s End’ which celebrated the end of harvest season.
Gaels believed that it was a time when the walls between our world and the next became thin and porous, allowing spirits to pass through, come back to life on the day and damage their crops.
Places were set at the dinner table to appease and welcome the spirits. Gaels would also offer food and drink, and light bonfires to ward off the evil spirits.
The origins of trick or treating and dressing up were in the 16th century in Ireland, Scotland and Wales where people went door-to-door in costume asking for food in exchange for a poem or song.
Many dressed up as souls of the dead, or Aos Si, and were understood to be protecting themselves from the spirits by impersonating them.
The Christian origin of the holiday is that it falls on the days before the feast of All Hallows, which was set in the eighth century to attempt to stamp out pagan celebrations. Christians would honour saints and pray for souls who have not yet reached heaven.