The Secrets Behind All Hallow’s Eve

Courtesy of Jonathan Cutrer (Flickr CC0)

Halloween is a modern holiday, but it has its roots in older traditions. The history of Halloween can be traced back almost 2,000 years. Once upon a time, All Hallow’s Eve was just another day on the calendar until Pope Gregory IV decided to set the date to November 1. This made it easier for people who lived during that time period to remember the holiday because they already celebrated All Saints Day on May 13. The tradition of leaving treats for spirits or saints on a doorstep to welcome them started in Ireland and carried over into Scotland and England as well.

All Hallows Eve is the night before All Saints Day, which is on November 1st. Halloween is a shortened version of All Hallows’ Eve and it’s celebrated in the US, Canada, and Ireland. They have parties and dress up like ghosts, witches, and vampires because they believe that on this night spirits can return to earth (if one does this wrong they’ll get cursed).

Halloween was also originally called “Celtic New Year.” It was a time for people to celebrate the end of summer by telling ghost stories around bonfires or lighting lanterns at nightfall–a tradition that still exists today.

Courtesy of D. Cormier (Flickr CC0)

All Saints’ Day is the day after Halloween. In fact, it’s basically a holiday that happens to occur on the same day as Halloween. The date was chosen because it was the day of a great battle between Christians and pagans back in 835 AD in France. A lot of people died during this battle, including many saints. Pope Gregory IV decided that they should be remembered on All Saints’ Day so they would never be forgotten.

The tradition of leaving treats for spirits or saints on a doorstep to welcome them started in Ireland.

People believed that during the night, spirits would roam the earth looking for food and drink. In order to appease them and ensure they didn’t do any harm, people would leave something outside their homes for them to eat. If someone had ancestors buried near their house, it was customary to leave something out for them as well — after all, it was thought that they could visit their living relatives in spirit form on All Hallows Eve night.

Contrary to popular belief, Halloween did not originate in the United States. The holiday has its roots in paganism and Christianity, although the exact origins of the holiday are difficult to pinpoint. Some historians believe that All Hallow’s Eve marks the day when witches and ghosts came out of hiding — and was therefore a time for people to pray that they would remain safe during this night of terror. Others believe it is a ritualistic observance in which people wore costumes and went from door-to-door singing songs or telling stories in exchange for food or money. Still, others suggest that playing pranks on unsuspecting neighbors was considered good luck on All Hallow’s Eve — the origin of “trick or treat.”

People may think of Halloween as a modern holiday, but it’s actually quite old. It has been around for centuries and has been observed by people all over the world.

Halloween is based on ancient traditions that have changed over time. For example, in some cultures, people believed that the veil between life and death was thin on Samhain (the traditional name for Halloween), so they would commune with the dead to learn their secrets. In other places, the spirits of children who had died before adulthood were thought to revisit their parents’ homes on All Hallow’s Eve. In still other places, such as Ireland and Scotland, costumes were worn during this festival because wearing one would prevent them from being taken by fairies who kidnapped humans each year at this time (and also because they were fun).

In addition to honoring deceased loved ones or supernatural beings like fairies or witches — and having fun with your friends — Halloween was also connected with harvest celebrations across much of Europe and North America: farmers believed that their crops would die if they didn’t give them enough attention during what was often called “bone weather” due to its cold temperatures at nightfall.

Halloween has been around for centuries and has evolved into the holiday we know today. It’s become a time of costumes, candy, and pranks — but there are some traditions that still hold true to their roots. Whether they like to go trick-or-treating or prefer to spend their day in costume watching scary movies with friends, this is one holiday that can be enjoyed by people of all ages.

Written by Sheena Robertson


History: Halloween 2022
Britannica: All Saints’ Day
Country Living: What’s the Real History of Halloween—and Why Do We Celebrate It on October 31?

Top and Feature Image Courtesy of Jonathan Cutrer‘s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of D. Cormier‘s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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