Halloween is not exactly a typical holiday. Other holidays, like Christmas and Shavuot,
celebrate an event. Halloween celebrates a lot of things, including the lives of people
who aren't with us anymore.
The history of Halloween is not entirely a clear one.
Many hundreds of years ago, a people called the Celts lived in Europe and on the British
Isles. The Celts believed that the souls of the dead visited Earth on the last day of
October. They had a festival in honor of these souls of the dead, and they called it
In time, the Roman Empire conquered the Celts and took over some of their beliefs as
well. This included Samhain. The Romans combined it with their own festivals. And since
the Roman Empire spread across a great part of the known world, the idea that the souls
of the dead visited Earth on the last day of October spread far and wide.
Many ideas from the Roman days still survive in the United States and in other Western
countries. Halloween is one of them.
But how did we get the name Halloween?
In the 8th Century, the Catholic Church declared November 1 to be All Saints'
Day. The church calendar had a number of days honoring saints already.
And the mass that the Catholic Church celebrated on November 1 was called
Allhallowmas. This meant "mass of all the hallowed [saintly people.]" It was
commonly called "All Hallows' Day."
And somewhere along the line, the night before became known as
Allhallowe'en, which was short for "evening before All Hallows' Day." It was
then shortened to what we now call it, Halloween.
One last question: Why do people dress up as ghosts, goblins, vampires, and
other scary creatures? The people who started all this Halloween business
many years ago believed that if they appeared scary, they would scare away
the spirits of the dead who were roaming the earth on All Hallows' Eve. These
people also carried food to the edge of town and left it there, hoping the spirits
would eat that food and not come raid the village.
In Great Britain everyone wants to welcome the friendly spirits so special soul-cakes for them.
When children in costumes called upon their neighbors' homes on Hallowe'en they would be given
In some parts of Britain Hallowe'en in the past was known as Mischief Night. It was a night for
Children were told not to sit in the circles of yellow and white flowers were fairies have danced as
they may be stolen by the fairies. It was also bad to sit under the hawthorn tree because the fairies
loved to dance on them and if they saw them their tempers would be prickled.
In England the black cat was considered to be good luck were as a white cat was considered to be
In England children make "punkies " out of large beets. They cut out a design of their choice into the
beet. Then they carry them through the streets and sing the Punkie Night Song. They knock on
doors and ask for money.
In some parts of England turnip Lanterns are place on gateposts to protect homes from the spirits.
In England Halloween was nicknamed, Nutcracker Night or Snap Apple Night. Families would sit
before a great fire in the hearth, roasting nuts and eating apples. They told stories and played
holiday games. It was an evening of great fun and merriment.
In England they continued to practice their deep-rooted, ancient pagan rites well after the
arrival of Christianity in the middle of the sixth century. The Church fathers had become
concerned that the popularity of non-Christian festivals was growing at the expense of
Christian holy days.
Pope Gregory I, in 601 issued a decree to his missionaries about the faith and customs of
the people whom he wanted to convert to Christianity.
If the native people worshipped at a well, or sacred grove, Gregory informed his
missionaries to enshrine them to Christ and let the worship continue.
Gregory's successor Pope Boniface IV in 609, declared May 13 All Saints' Day.
Unfortunately, while pagans were happy to add All Saints' Day to their calendar, they were
unwilling to give up their existing festival of the dead and continued to celebrate Samhain.
Intent on eliminating the ongoing power of the pagan beliefs, Pope Gregory III followed in
the footsteps of the earlier Christian leaders and intentionally united the Christian All Saints'
Day to the festival of Samhain. He then moved All Saints' Day to November 1, which
became more commonly known as All Hallows. Because Samhain had traditionally fallen
the night before All Hallows, it eventually became known as All Hallows' Even' or
Previous church leaders to Gregory III discouraged the Samhain tradition of wearing
frightening costumes, but Gregory decided instead to allow people to dress up in honor of
the saints. Other traditions, such as begging for food and kindling, were made legal by the
Church, providing that any food that was given to the beggars would be given to the poor,
rather than to appease the spirits.
The Church also added a second day to the festival, this fell on November 2 and was
called All Souls' Day and was dedicated to the souls of those who are still left in
purgatory. These souls had to endure the punishment of purgatory for their sins. It was
believed that the lighting of candles and the saying of prayers for the dead would
shorten the time they were to suffer in purgatory before they would rise to heaven.
The Tradition of begging for food soon was replaced with souling or Soul Caking. The
idea was for children to go from door to door asking for money to give to the poor and a
soul cake to have for themselves. Every cake they would receive, the children would
say a prayer for the souls of the dead.
Soul cakes were called many different names throughout England such as Saumas or
soul mass cakes which were dark fruitcakes, another cake was covered in caraway
seeds and made into a bun.
In the North of England the tradition of lighting bonfires was central to the Halloween
celebration. Superstition was still strong as a result of the aftermath of the witch-hunts;
witches were believed to take to the air to harass everyone at Halloween.
Halloween was called Tan Day for the township of Lancashire. Tan day was so named
as it was the Celtic tein, or fire and pitchforks full of burning hay were flung into the air
to scare the witches. Another reason was the heat and the smoke of the bonfires would
also drive away any airborne witches.
In North America people believed that it was bad luck for a black cat to cross your path. It
was believed that it was unlucky for a black cat to come into their homes or travel on their
In the United States trick-or-treaters are welcomed by placing lighted pumpkins known as
jack-o'-lanterns in their windows.
The North American tradition of trick or treat comes from the original idea that you must
be kind to dead ancestors or they will play a trick on you.
Neopagans of North America honor their ancestors on October 31. It was once believed
that on this night any souls who had not yet passed into the paradise of the summer lands
might return to wander the streets and visit their old homes once more.
Neopagans celebrate the festival today as a turning point between the old and the new
year, as well, the date of October 31 as the gateway between the worlds. Many neopagans
believe that, on the eve of Samhain, the veil that separates each world that of the living
and that of the dead is at its thinnest and that on this night, there is a better chance of
being successful in communicating with their ancestors.
Neither the word Halloween or the date 31 October are mentioned in any
Anglo-Saxon text indicating that it was just an ordinary day a thousand years
From the Medieval period (1066 - 1485) through to the 19th century, there is
no evidence that 31 October was anything else other than the eve of All Saints
From the 19th Century to the present day, 31st October has increasingly
acquired a reputation as a night on which ghost, witches, and fairies, are
These are hollowed out pumkins with a face cut into one side. People once carved out beets, potatoes
and turnips to use as lenterns on halloween. Nowadays we carve out pumkins.
Fire was very important to the celts as it was to all early people. In the old days people lit bon fires, to
scare away evil spirit. They believed that light had power over darkness. In some places they used to
jump over the fire to bring good lock.
The Roman festival for remembering the dead was also in October. During this time, the Romans
remembered their goddess, Pomona. She was the goddess of the trees and fruits, and when the
Romans came to Britain, they began to hold these two festivals on the same day as samahain. Apple
games probably became associated with Halloween because of this.
the tradition of dressing in costume for halloween has both European and Celtic roots. On halloween,
when it was believed that ghost came back to the earthly world, people thought that they would
encounter ghosts if they left theis homes. To avoid beging recognized by these ghosts, people would
wear masks when they left their homes after dark so that the ghosts would mistake them for fellow
Trick or Treat
Halloween was a time for making mischief - many parts of England still recognise Halloween as Mischief
Night – when children would knock on doors demanding a treat (Trick or Treat) and people would
disguise themselves as witches, ghosts, kelpies and spunkies, in order to obtain food and money from
Precautions must be taken on this night os enchantament
On Halloween, jurneys must be finished before sunsed.
A piece of bread crossed with salt (holy bread with witch repellent salt) was carried in the pockets of
travellers to keep them safe.
Apples, nuts and candles figured prominently in many of the superstitions practised at Hallowe'en
People believed that the Devil was a nut-gatherer. At Halloween, nuts were used as magic charms.
1) If you slince an apple through the equator (to reveal the five-pointed star withing) and then eat it by
candlelight before a mirror, your future spouse will appear over your shoulder.
2) Peel an apple, making sure the peeling comes off in one long strand then throw it over your shoulder.
The shape it lands in will be the initial os your beloved.
3) If you place an apple under your pillow you will dream of your future husband.
Take a candle and look into a mirror whilst combing your hair or eating an apple. Your future husbang
will appear peeking over your shoulder.