The history of Halloween spans 2,000 years and originates from keeping ghosts away

Samhain, a Celtic pagan festival, marked the beginning of winter and was believed to be a night on which spirits could roam among the living. Following is a transcript of the video.

Halloween is known for clever costumes and candy. But those customs are a callback to centuries of past traditions.

2,000 years ago, Celtic pagans held a Celtic festival for the new year. It was known as Samhain, which meant “summer’s end,” and marked the beginning of winter. Druids believed that the spirits of those who died the preceding year roamed on Samhain night.

They held a great fire to encourage the sun not to vanish, danced around in animal costumes, and even committed sacrifices to keep evil spirits away. But they left their doors open so that kind spirits would join them.

Around 43 A.D. the Romans conquered most of the Celtic territory, and they created two festivals similar to Samhain. Feralia: a celebration of the passing of the dead. And a festival honoring the Roman goddess of fruits and trees, Pomona.

As the years went on, more Romans were converting to Christianity. The Roman Catholic Church wanted to substitute Samhain. It created All Saints’ Day, a festival on November 1 that celebrates Christian martyrs. And All Souls’ Day, a celebration of the dead on November 2, which included many of Samhain’s customs, like bonfires and costumes.

As the festivals spread throughout Europe, and later the US, the day before All Saints’ Day was recognized as All Hallows’ Eve, and eventually became what we know as the more secular celebration: Halloween.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published on October 28, 2016.


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