The holiday known as Halloween, originated with two separate festivals, the Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced Sow-en) and the Christian’s All Saints Day. Celts celebrated “Samhain” (Summer’s End) as far back as 2,000 years ago. This was the time when they held festivals celebrating the dead, the harvest and the beginning of the new year (November 1st). The Celts believed that on the night before the new year the veil between the world of the living and the world of the dead was at it’s thinnest. On that night it was believed that the dead returned as ghosts. At sun-down people donned costumes and masks, huge bonfires were lit, people gathered around, many dancing around the fire, and sacrifices were made. All to pay tribute to the Celtic deities. After the celebration each family took a piece of lit wood or coal home to light their fires. People would leave offerings of food and wine outside in-front of their doors as offerings that would hopefully appease the spirits and in return they would leave and not enter the family’s home or haunt the family.
Roman Catholics, in the 8th century, celebrated “All Saints Day”, which was the the first day in the celebration that lasted through May 13th. The holiday payed homage to the saints of the Catholic church. Pope Gregory III moved the holiday to November 1st, in the mid-eighth century. His reason, to make it easier for churches to convert those pesky pagans and to counter the pagan holiday. The holiday is also called “All Hallows’ Eve”. The thought was to all use “All Hallows’ Eve” as a holiday a celebration of family, harvest and honor those who had passed in the year.
The two holidays combined over the past centuries. A few hundred years ago, superstitions for “All Hallows’ Eve”, which became “Halloween”, included carving large turnips and lighting them with candles to drive away evil spirits. The people dressed as spirits and ghouls to fool evil entities, as well as begged for food or money. That activity became known as trick-or-treating The trick came if you were not generous with your offerings of goodies.
Somehow, Halloween costumes became less scary and seem to focus more on showing how sexy you can be, for some adults.
A family dressed for Halloween in the early 1900’s