October is the month notoriously associated with Hallowe’en. For those with children, it naturally conjures up thoughts of costumes, candy, pranking, skeletons, carving pumpkins and trick-or-treating but have you ever stopped to wonder about its origins and why we celebrate? One of the world’s oldest holidays started off very different than what we know it today.
It is widely believed that many Halloween traditions originated from ancient Celtic harvest festivals, particularly the Gaelic festival Samhain, which celebrated their new year on November 1st. Samhain marked the end of summer and harvest and the beginning of winter, a time often associated with human death.
Celts believed that on the night before the new-year, the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. There are two historical theories about Samhain; one being that it has pagan roots and that it was Christianized as Halloween by the early church. Others believe it began as a Christian holiday and had no connection to ancient festivals like Samhain. For Christian believers, the word “Hallowe’en” dates back to approximately 1745 and means Saints’ evening and comes from a Scottish term for All Hallows’ Eve. In Scotland, the word “eve” is even and was contracted to e’en or een. Over time, All Hallows Eve evolved into Hallowe’en. It is observed on October 31st throughout several countries, and celebrates the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed. In many parts of the world, the Christian religious observances of All Hallows’ Eve include attending church services and lighting candles on the graves of the dead, but in other parts of the world, it has a large commercial focus and is generally considered a secular event.
So how did Hallowe’en come to America? Initially, the celebration was very limited in colonial New England because of Puritan beliefs and it was much more common in the southern colonies in the first half of the nineteenth century. As the colonies were a melding pot of various European countries and American Indians, the various customs of each culture combined to create a distinctly unique American version of Hallowe’en. The first celebrations included public parties that celebrated the harvest. Neighbors would share ghost stories or stories of the deceased, tell fortunes, dance and sing to celebrate. In the second half of the nineteenth century, America experienced an influx of new immigrants. Millions of Irish fleeing the Potato Famine were highly influential in popularizing Hallowe’en.
Many children and adults today celebrate Hallowe’en at school, work and in their neighborhoods most often by attending parties, wearing costumes, and trick-or-treating. These traditions have roots in Irish and English culture where historically they would visit homes asking for food or money. Young women believed that on Hallowe’en, they could conjure up the name of their future husband by doing tricks with yarn or apple parings (which women used as oracles), and mirrors which showed their future husbands face if they ate the apple. In the late 1800’s, there was a cultural push in America to make Hallowe’en a holiday focused on community and neighborhoods rather than ghosts, pranks and witchcraft. As is still common today, there were many frightening, grotesque or disturbing elements of Hallowe’en, but by the early 1900’s much of the superstitious or religious overtones were discouraged and Hallowe’en became a fun way for adults and children to celebrate with trick or treating, games and festive costumes.
To keep all the scary energies away we recommend our Feel Awesome spray: Just spray in your space and enjoy and peaceful Hallowe’en
However you celebrate, I hope it’s fun and memorable. Happy Hallowe’en!
Lots of Blessings
Founder Dorothea Essences