The True Story of Halloween
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The True Story of Halloween

"There is magic in the night when pumpkins glow by moonlight."

The True Story of Halloween

Halloween is celebrated on the 31st of October and became a very acclaimed holiday in the United States. A common thought indicated this feast as an American holiday, but it has very ancient origins. It has been celebrated for many years and nowadays it has become a common holiday that has spread to Europe as well. Italy, France, and Spain don't miss out on celebrating this holiday the last day of October. Adults and teenagers can't lose a chance to get dressed up in their spooky and horrific costumes putting on the scariest make up, while children go trick or treating around their neighborhoods.

But what are the true origins of Halloween?
The Celts

The origins of Halloween date back to the IV century B.C. when the Celts arrived in Ireland. The Celts were a group of Indo-Europeans, and most of them were shepherds, hunters, and nomadic farmers that lived around a wide European area, the British Isles and the Danube, in the maximum period of splendour, during the 4th-3rd century B.C. these people were united by a single Indo-European linguistic background and a common religious current. They were a group of people who came from southern Germany to Gaul, which is today France, Belgium, and England, around 2000 B.C. The Celts thought that on the 31st of October the spirits of the dead would get in touch with the world of the living and could wander undisturbed on Earth. That night long celebrations took place, they gave thanks to their gods for their benevolence. The Celts gathered in the woods where the ritual of lighting the sacred fire was performed and sacrifices were held. Once they came back from the woods they would light some lanterns they made with carved onions. Even today in Ireland between the night of the 31st of October and the 1st of November people are used to bringing tealights and people go around the houses dressed as ghosts and spirits, asking for presents and miming the return of the dead on earth.


It is an ancient Celtic-pagan festival, celebrated between the 31st of October and the 1st of November; often known also as the Celtic New Year. Dating back to the 6th century BC or even earlier, its name derives from the Old Irish Samain, which is supposed to mean "end of summer", while in modern Irish it means "November". The celebrations of Samhain, both religious and folkloric, originated from an ancient festival in Celtic paganism, which is also supposed to have influenced the popular festival of Halloween and the Christian holiday of All Saints. The Celts, like other ancient people, measured time according to the seasons and harvest cycles, so that Samhain, in Gaelic was the festival that marked the end of summer. That's why it is considered as the passage from the end of summer to the beginning of winter, the passage from the old year to the new year,( which for them the New Year started the 1st of November), and at the same time the last harvest before the beginning of the cold season, the occasion when they set aside supplies to get through the cold winter. So, Samhain was the most important festival for the Celts and represented a moment of passage. In fact, the Celts believed that the wall that divides the realm of the dead from that of the living was very thin and that the two worlds could enter into communication: the dead could return to the world of the living and come into contact with them. The festival of Samhain was also a time to honor the dead and it is therefore linked, in addition to Halloween, to a series of festivals both religious and non-religious. The Celtic festival of Samhain which was originally celebrated on November 1st, has inspired many traditions related to the modern holiday of Halloween. Legend says that on the eve of Samhain, October 31st, the spirits of the dead mingled with the living. To keep these grieving souls away, people wore costumes and carved scary faces out of tubers such as beets, potatoes,and turnips which typically abounded after the recent harvest.

But how did Halloween come to the United States?

At the root of this holiday migration plays an important role. Many Irish people decided to emigrate to the new American lands during the 1800s, because of a severe famine. They brought with them many of their traditions, including that of the Celtic New Year, or what we called today Halloween. In the United States, the holiday transformed itself, and became what we know today. This well known holiday fell into rampant consumerism in recent years and it has lost its original meaning. After the feast spread to the United States and became very popular, it continued to spread in many parts of the world.

Jack- o'Lantern

The symbol of Halloween par excellence is the carved and illuminated pumpkin. You can see a carved pumpkin with a candle or lantern inside in every American house, it's there resting on a window or porch to create a festively macabre atmosphere. For decades, pumpkin carving has been a beloved fall tradition that has spread from America to other parts of the world. The symbol of the carved pumkin is linked to Jack-o'lantern. Do you know the legend of the famous Jack-o-lanterns, the iconic symbol of Halloween? Although the legendary headless horseman and the pumpkin have frightened generations of Americans, the origin of the jack-o'-lantern actually dates back several centuries and characterized Ireland, England, and Scotland. There is an eighteenth-century Irish folk tale about a certain Stingy Jack, an unpleasant character who is often said to be a blacksmith with a passion for trouble and alcohol. Among the dozens of existing versions, a recurring plot tells that Stingy Jack managed to deceive the devil twice. When Jack died, he found himself banished from heaven, and even hell. But the devil took pity on Jack and gave him an ember of coal to light his turnip lantern, leaving him to wander between the two places for eternity. From this legend comes the nickname "Jack of the lantern", in English jack-o'-lantern, that has arrived to the present day.

Halloween: All Hallows' Eve

Halloween, in fact, originates in ancient times and over the centuries has experienced several changes, evolving into the manifestation we observe today. The word Halloween comes from the Irish words All Hallows' Eve, "Hallow" means saint and "Eve" means the day that precedes the feast called Hallowmas. Halloween is identified with the time when the Celts arrived in Ireland. Some academics have identified the origins of the current Halloween festival in the Celtic festival of Samhain with the Celtic New Year, as I previously said. The modern name of Halloween itself is linked to the feast of All Saints, as it derives from "All Hallow's Eve", which in Old English meant the eve of All Saints' Day.

Trick or treat

Everyone has heard in the past decades the sentence Trick or treat. The tradition of Halloween's trick-or-treating also derives from the legend of Jack and partly also from that of Samhain. Among the spirits of the dead that roam the world of the living during the night of Halloween is that of the evil Jack, who goes around the houses reciting the terrible words "trick or treat", which literally means "sacrifice or curse", decidedly more threatening than the modern translation of "trick or treat". Halloween and its customs have been built up over the centuries through the overlapping of legends and traditions related to various eras and different traditions. Halloween, like other modern holidays, is the result of a long series of transformations and mixing of various elements of different origins. During the night between the 31st and the 1st November, children, but often also adults, go from house to house disguised as monstrous creatures for the famous ritual of "trick or treat": the inhabitants of the house will then be able to save themselves from the terrible macabre jokes only by giving sweets to the children. Indeed, children cannot wait to go from house to house the night of the 31st of October knocking on people's doors asking for "Trick or treat". If the neighbors don't provide sweets for the children, kids will play tricks on them, but most of the people treat children with sweets, chocolate, and candies.

So tonight get dressed with your scariest, spooky costume, put on your frightful makeup and have fun, whether you go to a party or not! Happy Halloween everyone.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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