Most people are aware of the pagan roots of Halloween, but it’s not that simple. Earliest roots can be traced back 2,000 years ago to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. Celebrated on November 1st, it marked the end of summer, the harvest, and the beginning of their new year. They believed the night before, the ghosts of the dead returned to Earth. To commemorate, Druids built enormous bonfires, where Celts burned crops and animals as sacrifices to their Deities. Animal sacrifices were all the range across cultures back then…
By 43 A.D., the Roman Empire had mostly conquered the Celts, and over the course of the next 400 or so years, the holiday was combined with two Roman holiday known as Feralia, also commemorating the passing of the dead, and Pomona, honoring the Roman Goddess of fruit and trees (the origin of bobbing for apples).
On May 13th, 609 A.D., Pope Bonface IV established All Martyr’s Day. It was later changed to November 1st by Pope Gregory III. By the 9th Century, as Christianity had spread throughout Europe, these many holidays were blended into one. To add one more holiday to the list, in 1000 AD, the Church proclaimed November 2nd All Souls’ Day, also to honor the dead.
All Souls’ Day was celebrated rather similarly to Samhain, with large parades, bonfires, and costumes such as angels, devils and saints. All Saint’s Day was also called All-Hallows (or All-hallowmas, translated from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints’ Day) and the night before was dubbed All-Hallows Eve. Over time, it just called Halloween.
I’m impressed if you’ve gotten this far. This story ended up being far longer that it was interesting, but if you have one thing to take away from it, my job is done.