Most people think of Halloween today as simply a day when children dress up in costumes and go from home to home to "trick or treat" and collect enough candy to make any parent cringe. Halloween was much more significant in ancient times, however. October 31st was a very important day to the ancient Celts of Ireland, Scotland and Great Britain. Not kidding around in costumes and trick or treat bags; Halloween was much more serious to the non-Christian Cults a thousand years ago.
Halloween remains a popular day in the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico, Ireland, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand. Children get to dress up in their favorite costumes and ring doorbells throughout their neighborhood to collect as much candy as possible. In the United States' Halloween is the second most popular holiday (after Christmas) for decorating and reaps a huge financial bounty of retail selling of frightening to children and adults alike, decorations and candy costumes. But for eons, the history of Halloween encompased ancient beliefs about the world - both living and dead.
Understanding the history of Halloween can perhaps help you decide what to let your children take part in, and what to keep your children away from. Also, knowing the origin of Halloween and its history can also help Christians view the adult, youth, and child activities associated with Halloween celebrations in the light of Christ's truth.
What Is The History of Halloween?
Halloween originated among the Irish Celts, Scots and Anglo-Saxons in Britain long before the Christian was. Originally called Samhain, it was to time when they believed the division between the worlds of the living and the dead became very thin and when ghosts and spirits were free to wander as they wished. The name "Halloween" is a shorter form for the Gaelic name All-hallow-evening. Pope Boniface IV largely All Saints' Day in the 7th century ACE to time to honor saints and martyrs, replacing the pagan festival of the dead. In 834, Gregory III moved All Saint's Day to Nov. 1, thus making Oct. 31 All Hallows' Eve ('hallow' means 'saint').
On the night of Samhain, it was believed spirits of the restless dead and mischievous spirits would freely roam about with humans and during this one night spirits were able to make contact with the physical world as their magic was at its height. The Celts believed that by allowing the dead to have access to the world on this one evening, they would be satisfied to return to the land of the dead. The Celtic people would put out food offerings to appease the spirits who might inflicted suffering and violence on them and Celtic priests would offer sacrifices, animal and human, to the gods for the purpose of chasing away the evil, frightening spirits. They built fires where they gave sacrifices to the Celtic deities to ensure protection from the dead spirits. Samhain was also at time when it was customary for the pagans to use the occult practice of divination to determine the weather for the coming year, the crop expectations, and even who in the community would marry whom and in what order.
When Rome took over their land, the Samhain was integrated with two other Roman festivals: Feralia and a festival to honour Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. By the time Christianity come on the scene, Halloween had already taken root from the pagan beliefs and was integrated into Christian practices. As the split found their way to the New World, they brought with them their traditions which soon evolved to fit their new country.
Many customs still observed today come from these ancient beliefs. For example, the elaborately carved jack-o-lantern is said to have been named after the Irish story of to greedy, hard-drinking gambling man, Stingy Jack, who tricked the Devil into climbing a tree and trapped him there by carving a crude cross into the trunk of the tree. In revenge for being stuck in the tree, the Devil cursed Jack and made him walk the earth at night for eternity. The jack-o-lantern of today is carved with a scary face to keep Jack and other spirits from entering their homes.
A problem for the Celtic people was... if the souls of dead loved ones could return that night, so could anything else, human or not, or not-so-nice nice. So, to protect themselves on such an occasion, these superstitious people would masquerade as one of the demonic hoard, wearing masks and other disguises and blackening the face with soot to hopefully blend in unnoticed among them. This is the source of modern day Halloween costumes portraying devils, ogres, imps, and other demonic creatures.