Halloween's Beginnings And Associated Traditions
The origins of different holidays have become clouded by the passing of time and the disinterest of the people who celebrate them. Christmas was first a pagan Roman holiday that was adopted by Christians as the birth day of Jesus because it was already being celebrated and the leaders of the church needed an excuse to banish the pagan festival. Easter was conceived the same way. Most holidays do have an interesting history if one takes the time to research them and Halloween is no exception. Why are there ghosts and goblins represented at the celebration? Why is the pumpkin such a central gourd at Halloween time? How did Halloween start is actually an interesting question that takes one back, in part, to the contributions of a little understood people called the Celts.
Who Started Halloween And Where Did It Come From?
The Celts were a people who were worshippers of the Earth, natural cycles and all of its wonders. They decided that the end of October, when the harvests were all finished, marked the end of the summer season and the beginning of winter. Up until very recently, winter was a harsh time when many people starved and died due to the nature of the season. Therefore, the last day of summer was celebrated as the last day of life and the beginning of death.
The roots of Halloween were steeped in the ancient mysticism of those animistic Celtic beliefs and the ceremonies that followed. Spirits of the dead were said to have easier access to the Earth on this night and they were supposed to be able to tell the future of the living. The holiday was actually welcomed by the Celts because they wanted their priests, which they called Druids, to be able to reliably forecast what was going to happen in the coming year so they could avoid starvation and death.
When the Celts were conquered by the Romans in about 800 BC the actual beginning of the word Halloween was coined. "Where does the name Halloween come from?" you ask. The next day was celebrated as All Saints Day by the Catholic Church in Rome. Thus, they piggybacked onto the Celtic day of Samhain, October 31st, and named it All Hallow's Eve. Which, when shortened, became Hallow's Ev'en, then Hallowe'en, and, finally, Halloween.
There is symmetry to the Roman holiday that also bares significance. The Germanic tribes that eventually conquered the Romans in the west had a holiday that was separated six months from All Saints Day. It was called Walpurgis Night. This was a night when witches and other ghoulish creatures were said to walk the world before summer kept them down for six months.
There is also an element of harvest about Halloween. The pumpkin is a symbol of this because it is a fruit that generally ripens at about the time of Halloween. The harvest time is one of the many roots of Halloween that has nothing to do with ghosts and goblins, but was celebrated about the same time, so the two festivals were joined.
Asking how did Halloween start is a trip through a history that is well over 2000 years old and steeped in mysticism and harvest. Many of the people that celebrate Halloween may not understand how the season began, but they have the rudiments down if they dress up like a ghost and carve a Jack-o-Lantern.