The earliest celebrations of Halloween were among the Celtic who lived
in the areas which are now Ireland, Great Britain and Northern France.
The Celts were people who worshiped the beauty of nature. They worshiped
the Sun God and believed that without him, they would not live. They also
worshipped Samhain (pronounced sow-in) who was the lord of the dead and of the
cold, dark winter season. They believed that on October 31 Samhain would call
together all of the dead and these souls would take on the shape of an animal.
They believed that all creatures wandered the Earth on that night. This was called the Vigil of Samhain.
The Celts celebrated their new year on November 1.
This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and
the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was
often associated with human death.
As already mentioned the Celts believed that on the night
before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the
living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31,
they celebrated the festival of Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth.
The Celtic people feared the evening of October 31 more than any other day of the year.
itself was a time for paying homage to the sun
god Baal who had provided the people with ripened grain for use in the upcoming winter.
evil spirits were everywhere. Charms and spells were said to have more power on the eve of Samhain. The Druids,
or Celtic priests, would build fires on
the hilltops in belief that the large fires would help to
strengthen the Sun God, and give him power enough to overcome
the lord of darkness so that the sun season could continue.
They believed that the fires were sacred, therefore they burned
dried crops and sacrificed animals to help strengthen the Sun God.
At midnight they stop worshipping the Sun God and start to worship
Samhain because he will be the ruler for the next six months.
is the starting of the new year (1st November). They would perform
ceremonies through the night to ask the spirits to tell the future of the upcoming year.
For clans entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an
important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter.
In the morning each household receives an ember from the fire, this ember
is used to start fires in their own homes with the belief that it will ward
off evil spirits in the new year.
In the 7th century
the church celebrated All Saint's Day in May but by the 9th century the date had been changed to November 1.
The original festival for the pagen Lord of the Dead became a festival of Christain dead. Still, people went
on expecting the arrival of ghosts on October 31.
Another name for All Saint's Day was All Hollow's which
later became shortened to Hallowe'en.
Today in Ireland children dress up in costume and tick or treat and
Jack-O'Lanterns are seen lighting the way for the witches and ghosts.