My endearing husband recently told me that he doesn’t understand the point of celebrating Halloween. I could not believe what I was hearing. To add insult to injury, he said this with his nose in the air, with great snobbery. He said ‘it’s just a stupid holiday with no tradition.’ Of course I had to let him know that he didn’t know what he was talking about.
Then, I starting thinking, how many people out there are simply not aware of Halloween’s history? How many people think that Halloween is nothing more than just fun costumes and yummy candy? I had to give him a little break, since he is from Africa, where they do not celebrate the holiday, but I did have to educate him a little. You see, Halloween has a fascinating history, which combines a mix of ancient Celtic practices, Catholic and Roman religious rituals, and European folk traditions.
The Celts (from what is now Northern Ireland) celebrated their new year on November 1st and believed that on October 31st, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred and that the ghosts of the dead would return to earth.
The Romans conquered the Celts in AD 43 and they celebrated “Ferialia” which celebrates the passing of the dead on a day in late October. By the 800s influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands. In the seventh century, Pope Boniface IV designated November 1 All Saints’ Day, a time to honor saints and martyrs. It is widely believed today that the pope was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related, but church-sanctioned holiday. “All saints day” continues to be celebrated by the Catholic Church.
As European immigrants came to America, they brought their varied Halloween customs with them.
As times have changed, and traditions forgotten, Halloween has evolved. Today it is a national holiday, celebrated by most with candy, pumpkins, costumes, and haunted houses. The holiday is now more of a secular children’s celebration, focused more on the fun of the holiday than anything else. Some believe that the holiday is ‘satanic’ and should not be celebrated. Others participate by going as far as making a ‘haunted garage’ for the neighborhood kids or making their front yard into a makeshift ‘gravesite’ for the neighborhood kids. However you plan to celebrate, be safe and have some fun!