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A History of Halloween

We all know Halloween is a time of tricks, treats, horror films, pumpkin carving and getting dressed up but do you know where Halloween came from or how we got the traditions we love to take part in every 31st October? Hold on to your broomsticks while we give you quick Halloween history lesson.

Our story starts with the Celtics who celebrated a festival called Samhain to mark the end of summer and the start of their new year and the long dark winter. Samhain took place on the 31st October when the Celts believed the boundary between the living and the dead was at its thinnest, so thin that ghosts could pass over and walk the earth. This also allowed their priests to get a better look at the future and make predictions that they believed would be crucial for getting them through the winter months. To celebrate they would create large bonfires, wear animal pelts and offer sacrifices while telling each other’s fortunes. It was also the Celts who came up with Jack O’Lanterns.

When the Roman Empire took over, they combined Samhain with two of their own festivals. The first was the celebration of Feralia, a day in late October when Romans would commemorate the passing of their dead, followed by a festival for Pamona the goddess of trees and apples. Many believe Pamona to be the inspiration for apple bobbing.

The name “Halloween” comes from the celebration of All Saints Day. This was a day created by the Catholics to celebrate their martyrs and saints and takes place on the 1st November. This day was also called “All hallows” or “All-Hallowmas” stemming from the Middle English word Alholowmeese meaning “All Saints Day”. Since Samhain took place the day before All Saints Day, it started being referred to as All-Hallows-Eve and then eventually Halloween.

In America, Halloween merged with the beliefs and customs of a myriad of different groups to create our traditions of Halloween parties, tricks and the telling of ghost stories.

The tradition of Trick or Treating most likely comes from All Souls Day Parades held in England to commemorate the dead. During this time the poor would beg for food at houses and in return they would say a prayer for the deceased of the house. These families would pay the poor with pastries called “Soul Cakes”. Eventually this evolved into children visiting houses to ask for food, ale and money and now sweets!

Depending on your age, religion and upbringing you will probably celebrate October 31st differently and that goes the same for the team here, so we thought we’d let you know how some of us spend our Halloween: 

SAMSTAR

Halloween is my absolute favourite time of the year, in fact for my family it has as much significance as most people give to Christmas. On the week(s) building up to Halloween, we decorate the house and have a marathon of different horror films.

On Halloween itself, we give gifts to each other in true Nightmare before Christmas style. I really wanted to get married on Halloween but due to issues with that day, I got married on 1st November instead, though the ceremony was still themed around Halloween. I also like to go on ghost tours and this year I’m excited to walk around Edinburgh Dungeons.

ANJI

Since I have a little girl, my Halloween this year will involve Halloween crafts, a Halloween party and trick or treating at friends’ houses. While Violet loves getting the treats, she doesn’t like to eat them all at once, so they normally get put in our treat box to be eaten over the next few weeks. She also loves to carve pumpkins; so far we’ve had pumpkin Elsa, Batman and Olaf though I’ve not had a request for this year just yet.