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All Hallows’ Eve originally began as a Celtic festival called Samhain — pronounced sow-in; a Gaelic word meaning “end of summer.” Later, the Church adopted some of the Celtic traditions to incorporate into their vigil tradition. It is held on October 31, which is the day before All Hallows Day; a.k.a All Saints’ Day in the Christian calendar.
The Celts would celebrate All Hallows’ Eve by lighting bonfires and dressing in costumes to ward off spirits. Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints in the eighth century. Not long afterward people started to incorporate Samhain traditions into All Saints Day.
All Hallows’ Eve’s name is derived from the Old English “hallowed” which means holy or sanctified. On the Chrisitan calendar, it is a time for worshippers to prepare themselves with fasting and prayers. This helps them prepare for the feast they will have the next day.
The Celtics celebrated Samhain to signal an end of the harvest season and a time of preparation for the coming winter.
Over time All Hallows’ Eve became known as Halloween; a day of pumpkin carving, festive gatherings, donning costumes, and trick-or-treating. Each year people put up scary decorations and children would decide who or what they wanted to dress up as. Then they would go door to door to receive a piece of candy or another kind of treat.
For many years, people viewed All Hallows’ Eve as the day the ghosts of the dead could return to earth. There are some who still believe in this and celebrate All Hallows’ Eve accordingly.
No matter what you call it; October 31 is a day of fun festivities. It is also a nice treat to see children dressed up and walking around the neighborhood for their goodies.
Written by Sheena Robertson
BBC: All Hallows’ Eve
History: Halloween 2021
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Inset Image Courtesy of Adrian Clark’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License