Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. It gives me, and other adults, full permission to dress up in costumes and participate in the merriment. And there’s always the bonus of candy the next day. The history of Halloween and the sacred Celtic Festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in) have always fascinated me.
Halloween, or All Hallow’s Eve, is the day before All Saint’s Day (November 1st). All Saint’s Day was enacted in the 8th century by Pope Gregory III and is a day for us to honor saints and martyrs. The Celts also celebrated their new year on November 1st. The evening before, the Celts celebrated Samhain as a time to say goodbye to summer and prepare for winter. They believed that the boundaries between the living and dead were thin on this day, thus giving a small portal for the ghosts of the dead to return to earth. It is also believed to be a time where making predictions was more accurate. For a culture that was dependent on living off of the land, these prophecies were important as they entered the colder winter months. In the festival of Samhain, the Celts wore costumes as they celebrated around a fire (and I’ll leave out the commentary about the animal sacrifices). At the end of the festival, the fire was taken to the individual homes to protect the people from the winter weather.
In the last half of the 19th century, with the infusion of European immigrants, Halloween came to America. Some of the traditions were practices in America, and Samhain continues to be celebrated by some groups. Eventually, Halloween became more about community than witchcraft and ghosts in America. The tradition of trick-or-treating is believed to date back to parades in England commemorating All Soul’s Day (November 2nd). And Americans have continued the tradition of dressing in costume that was done centuries earlier as a way to confuse ghosts into thinking the person was a ghost.
And while Halloween has been Americanized by slasher movies that depict scary ghosts and monsters, it was a time that families felt closest to those who passed on and their efforts to connect to these departed souls, even setting a place at the table for them. And the superstitious who don’t want to cross the path of a black cat … well, that dates back to the Middle Ages when people believed that witches would transform in to cats to avoid detection.
Halloween is rich in tradition. For me, it’s a day where I have historically had greater intuition and connection to the Earth. It’s also a day to be creative in my costume making (for me and my cats). So give yourself some quiet time to see what perceptions come to you on Halloween, connect with family that has passed on, and get creative in your costume design!
Have a wickedly excellent All Hallow’s Eve (cue the Vincent Price laugh)!
Allie (as Harry Potter’s Belatrix Lestrange)
Join in on the fun!