Halloween originated with an ancient Celtic festival where people lit bonfires and wore costumes to ward off ghosts. As such, to this day, the tradition continues, with people donning costumes, serving each other “trick-or-treat”, and carving jack-o-lanterns.
Halloween is a holiday celebrated each year on October 31, primarily in western countries, to mark the eve of the Christian feast of All Hallows’ Day (Feast of All Saints), observed in honour of all the saints of the church. Historians believe that the tradition of Halloween or Hallowe’en (a contraction of “All Hallows’ evening”) originated with an ancient Celtic festival where people lit bonfires and wore costumes to ward off ghosts. As such, to this day, the Halloween tradition continues, with people donning costumes, serving each other “trick-or-treat”, carving jack-o-lanterns, and generally engaging in festive gatherings to ward off all evil.
Why is Halloween celebrated?
According to a theory, the tradition of Halloween originated from the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, which marked the end of a bountiful harvest for the summer and the beginning of the “dark, cold winter”, which was associated with death and decay at the time. Therefore, it was on the boundary night between summer and winter that the Celts celebrated Samhain, when they burnt huge bonfires dedicated to their deities and prayed to protect themselves from evil spirits during the coming winter.
It is believed that this Samhain tradition, with pagan roots, eventually got Christianised as All Hallow’s Day, while other academics believe that the tradition began originally as a Christian holiday. In many of the western countries where the tradition spread, it evolved as a secular celebration where people engage in joyous celebrations to mark the age-old tradition against spirits.
Why is Halloween celebrated on October 31?
The Celts – who lived 2,000 years ago mostly in an area that now lies in northern France, the United Kingdom, and Ireland – believed that on the boundary night between this summer and winter period, the limit between the worlds of the living and the dead are blurred. They believed that on the night of October 31, the ghosts of the deceased returned to the world, which eventually became a convenient date for the festival since the Celts celebrated their new year on November 1.