The true meaning of Halloween is nowadays hidden behind costumes parties and kids candies.
But what is Halloween? Celebrated each year on 31 October, Halloween has a long history, both of pagan rituals but also of Christian traditions.
The true meaning of Halloween can be found in the ancient Celtic harvest festivals.
The Celts lived 2000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France.
The Celts used the day of 31 October to mark the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. Also, they believed that the change of seasons was a bridge to the world of the dead.
Thus, each year, the Celtics were celebrating the festival of Samhain.
Traditionally, Samhain is celebrated from 31 October to 1 November, as the Celtic day began and ended at sunset.
This is about halfway between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice.
According to Irish mythology, Samhain is the time when the ‘doorways’ to the Otherworld open, allowing supernatural beings and the souls of the dead to come into our world.
Thus, the true meaning of Halloween comes from the tradition of celebrating Samhain, a festival for the dead.
Some tales suggest that people made offerings or sacrifices at Samhain. According to ‘the Book of Invasions’, people had to give two-thirds of their children, their corn and their milk to the monstrous Fomorians.
The Fomorians represented the harmful powers of nature, the forces of chaos, darkness, death, blight and drought.
Parents and children, old and young, would then light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts.
Later, as the Christian religion becomes stronger and stronger, 31 October is known as All Hallows’ Eve – the day before All Saints’ Day.
All Hallows’ Eve is celebrated on 1 November.
People attend church services.
But also the lighting of candles on the graves of the dead remained popular. Also, people celebrate All Hallows’ Eve with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels and devils.
Over time, Samhain and All Saints’/All Souls’ merged to create the modern Halloween.
The true meaning of Halloween refers now to activities such as:
-attending Halloween costume parties,
– carving pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns,
– lighting bonfires,
-playing divination games,
-visiting haunted attractions such as haunted mansions,
-telling scary stories and watching horror films.
No more children, corn and milk giving away. Not officially, at least.