A Little Halloween History
2,000 years ago the Celts celebrated their new year on November 1st, marking the end of summer and the harvest. Following was the beginning of a long, dark, cold winter, a time associated with human death. The Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became one.
Believing ghosts of the dead returned to earth, the Celts celebrated Samhain the night of October 31st. In addition to damaging crops and causing trouble, Celts thought that the presence of spirits made it easier for the Druids (Celtic priests) to make predictions. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter.
To commemorate the event, the Druids built huge sacred bonfires and the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins. When the celebration was over, they-lit their hearth fires from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.
By A.D. 43, Romans had conquered the majority of Celtic territory. During their rule two festivals of Roman origin were combined with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain.
Feralia was the first, a day in late October when the Romans commemorated the passing of the dead. The second was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple and the merging of this celebration into Samhain explains the tradition of bobbing for apples that is commonly practiced today on Halloween.
By the 800’s Christianity’s influence had spread to the Celtic lands. In the seventh century, Pope Boniface IV designated November 1st All Saints’ Day, honoring saints and martyrs. The celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas, and the night before it, Samhain, evolved to All-hallows Eve, and eventually, Halloween.
Happy Halloween. Be safe!
Burns & Bertha – Changing Lives – Red Line Investors – © 2019