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Halloween's Origins

Halloween represents a blend of cultures, past and present and provides us a wonderful window into the beliefs and practices of our ancestors. By understanding the origins of this magical holiday and using the direct link it provides us to our past, we can easily place our modern practices in historical context and potentially gain a better understanding of ourselves. Some believe that the observation of Halloween is evil, or promotes devil worship, but the holiday did not grow out of evil practices. It grew from a combination of observances between the ancient Celts, Greeks, Roman Catholics and the prayer rituals of Medieval Europe.

Halloween has been celebrated for over 2000 years and was an important annual festival to the ancient Celts. The Druids regarded November 1 as New Year's Day. It was known as Samhain, (pronounced “SAH-win”, literally meaning the end of summer) and was a time for celebrating the year's harvest and for honoring the dead. The Celts believed that all laws of time and space were suspended during this time, allowing spirits to roam the earth and intermingle with the living, so they built raging fires and made offerings to appease these restless spirits.

Portions of the Celtic holiday eventually morphed into Christian culture after the Romans conquered the Celts. Conscious efforts were made to bring the Celts into the practice of Catholicism. In the 8th century, the church moved All Saints Day, the holiday designated to honor Christian martyrs, from May to November 1 with the hope of converting the Druids, who would associate this observance with their own ancient rituals honoring the dead. The word itself is a corruption of All Hallows Eve, the day preceding All Hallows Day. Halloween came to American with the early Irish and Scottish immigrants. It is from their folklore that we get many of our modern practices.

About The Author
Wendy Brinker is an artist and writer in Columbia, SC.

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