Two schools of thought on where Halloween began. There is the tradition that Halloween began in Western Europe among the Irish immigration into Scotland. the migration brought the mystical beliefs together of the changing of the seasons when magical things happened between the life and the after life. The ancient Celtics believed the dead could return to earth when winter began. They celebrate at a festival called Samhain, one of four Gaelic festivals each year. It was the end of the harvest season ;and the beginning of the dark months when the sun is not in the sky long; the days are short. Is was celebrated throughout Gaelic groups under various festival names in Scotland, Ireland, Brittany and Wales. It falls between the winter solstice and the autumn equinox. It begins the new year from October 31st to November 1st. As the Catholic Church came into Western Europe they converted the previous pagan sites of worships to churches and Pope Gregory I instructed the priest to incorporate the Samhain into a Catholic festival to smooth the assimilation
. The date became know in the early Catholic church as All Hallows’ Eve; a time to pray for the dead and pay homage to the saints. It has been called All-howmas and All-hallows which means All Saints’ Day from “Alholowmesse” in the Middle English days.
The other school of thought actually discounts Samhain all together. Their documentation states All Saints as early as 800 AD in Germany. The celebration was in the Spring and had nothing to do with the New Year or end of harvest time. It was a time to fast and pray prior to the festival. Candles were lit during the prayers.
The Celtic Pagan festival also included fire. They believed the lighting of bonfires would chase away dark spirits. They also wanted to appease the spirits and the power they held over life, Today the tradition has transformed into the carving of pumpkins as jack-o-lanterns. As immigrants brought the festival in the USA it began to evolve and mix with other beliefs practices.
- The Day of the Dead from Mexico
- Obon from Japan honoring dead ancestors
- Fet Gede from Haiti the voodoo festival to raise the dead (Zombies)
- Hungry Ghost Festival from China where fake money is burned to appease spirits
- Somber Pchum Ben festival in Cambodia brings food to the dead
Elements from many countries have mingled in and slowly become the Halloween we know today with witches, jack-o-lanterns, skeltons, ghosts, zombies and haunted houses. Yards are decorated to look like graveyards are decorated with webs and spiders. Black cats and bats are also considered part of halloween.
So Halloween, or Trick-or-Treat evolved. Little ones show up banging on your door ignoring the door bell. Give them a treat or you are subject to a trick or prank.
Whole fall festivals have evolved as school and community events or fundraisers. In some areas where houses are spread too far apart for little ones to hike, or where the area is not safe, Trunk-a-treat evolved so parents could let their kids celebrate at a safe sight among family and friends. It is a children’s tailgating party extraordinaire.