The Origins of Halloween

By Hanna Yamato

Halloween, also known as All Hallow’s Eve, is arguably one of the best holidays of the year and one of the oldest holidays celebrated today. While many people celebrate by carving pumpkins, going trick-or-treating, dressing up in costumes, and attending parties, the origins and myths of Halloween make this holiday even more fascinating to experience. 

Although there are many different versions of the origins and traditions of Halloween, one historical component remains synonymous within every culture. The primordial history of Halloween can be traced back to the Druids, a Celtic culture in the regions of Northern Europe and the United Kingdom. The roots of this holiday specifically tie back to about 2000 years ago, during the beginnings of the feast of Samhain, which translates to “summer’s end”, where people attended ritualistic ceremonies to connect to the spirits and honor the dead. This annual feast holiday was mainly celebrated with huge bonfires and was also believed to mark the end of the Celtic calendar. The whole modern tradition of trick-or-treating predominantly evolved from the ancient tradition of how the Celts laid out gifts and treats to pacify the evil spirits which were believed to roam around nighttime.

Moreover, the dark spiritual history of Halloween ties back to the Celts’ annual traditions of bonfires, which attracted bugs who drew bats to the area. As time passed, multiple versions of folklore emerged seeing bats as harbingers of misfortune or death. 

Furthermore, one of the most well-known chronicles of Halloween turns out to be where this holiday earned its alternative title, All Hallow’s Eve. A couple centuries after the Celts’ traditions were established, the “Americanization” of Halloween began. In addition, Christianity gradually became more dominant and implemented multiple changes to traditional Halloween customs, while the pagan undertones of the holiday significantly decreased. Likewise, many Christian popes attempted to replace pagan holidays like Samhain with events corresponding with their own ideologies. By 1000 A.D., the date of November 1st, which marked All Saints’ Day or All Hallows Day, became a holiday in which people honored and paid homage to saints. That made October 31st All Hallows Eve, which eventually evolved into the modern name of “Halloween.”