Halloween originated in Ireland where the Celts celebrated it as Samhain, which roughly translates as ‘summers end’, but unlike nowadays it had no connection to the Supernatural.
It also has roots in the Roman festivals of Pomona – she was the goddess of fruits and seeds – and the festival of the dead named Parentalia. When the Romans invaded Britain the festivals merged.
Then Christianity arrived and decided to ‘rescue’ the Celts from the Devil. The only way to do this was to embrace Christianity. The battle between religions lasted many generations. Finally the Christians set up All Hallows Day which celebrated all the saints that didn’t already have a day to celebrate them. Samhain became known as All Hallows Eve and eventually Halloween.
In addition, several ‘traditional’ images like witches and ghosts also have ancient roots. The word for witch comes from the old Irish word wiccen which means wise. The church demonized practitioners because they were woman who had a better understanding of herbs and medicine than them. Other creatures that were made evil by the church include fairies and the many gods. Ghosts in the festivals of Samhain were the considered to be the spirit of those who had died that year. The Celts carried offerings through the village to tempt them away from people; this is where Trick or Treating has its first roots.
It should be clear that Halloween is a mix of many cultures. I feel that we should learn more about our ancient festivals but we should still enjoy them to the full like we do today.
By Hayley Mullan