Halloween may appear as a North American holiday, however the tradition dates back much farther than the founding of the United States. Halloween has roots that date back to Celtic and Welsh influences, later molded to fit more with Christian influences as it spread to North America.
Why do we celebrate Halloween?
It’s a great question. First, let’s examine the origins of the holiday.
Halloween has roots connected with Celtic harvest festivals, including the holiday of Samhain. While there is some debate that Halloween is strictly a North American, Christian holiday it is difficult to ignore the similarities to Samhain. During Samhain, festival-goers would leave treats on front doors to appease dead spirits in costume. According to scholars, when Christian missionaries entered the region some time later they began to take note of this sacred festival, adopting and adapting it as they pleased.
The more recent holiday of Halloween is celebrated on October 31, and became widely celebrated in the United States after Irish and Scottish immigrants arrived here during the 19th century. Halloween – also known as Allhalloween, All Hallow’s Eve and All Saints’ Eve – is connected with the Western Christian feast of All Hallows’ Day and Reformation Day. The event launches a three day observance known as Allhallowtide, an observance dedicated to remembering the dead including saints (hallows) and martyrs.
Although Halloween may appear simple on the surface, a tradition where people dress up in costume and hand out candy, it is actually much more sophisticated. Halloween is not necessarily a holiday intended to scare with wicked masks, but rather to acknowledge and honor the life of those deceased. If you wish to take it a step further research ‘Day of the Dead’ in Mexico, a festival that really makes Halloween look feeble in nature based on how much time and energy goes to celebrating the lives of those no longer with us.
Christian or not, Halloween should be first celebrated as a time to enjoy treats and dress up in costumes that you would not dare wear any other day of the year. It should also be a time for scary movies and jack-o’-lanterns if you wish to partake. However, don’t forget the deep, spiritual implications of Halloween as well.