Why do we celebrate/observe Halloween?
Halloween is a holiday celebrated each year on October 31, this date marked the end of the summer and harvest in Britain, Ireland and northern France and the beginning of winter, a time of year often associated with death and Halloween 2019 occurs on Thursday, October 31.
The tradition originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts.
In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honour all saints. Soon, All Saints Day incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. It was one of four Gaelic seasonal festivals, and was widely observed across Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man.
Celts believed that on this day, the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred – and ghosts returned to earth. But the pagans didn’t fear the dead, and Samhain was a time for Druid prophecies.
The evening before was known as All Hallows Eve, and later Halloween. Over time, Halloween evolved into a day of activities like trick-or-treating, carving jack-o-lanterns, festive gatherings, donning costumes and eating treats.
It marked a pivotal time of year when seasons changed, but (more importantly) observers also believed the boundary between this world and the next became especially thin at this time, en abling them to connect with the dead. This belief is shared by some other cultures; a similar idea is mentioned around the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, which also typically occurs in October and involves saying prayers for the dead. This is also where
Halloween gains its “haunted” connotations.
The History of Halloween Activities
The early pagan holiday of Samhain involved a lot of ritualistic ceremonies to connect to spirits, as the Celts were polytheistic. While there isn’t a lot of detail known about these celebrations, many believe the Celts celebrated in costume (granted, they were likely as simple as animal hides) as a disguise against ghosts, enjoyed special feasts, and made lanterns by hollowing out gourds (hence, the history of jack-o’-lanterns).
Over time, as Christianity took over and the pagan undertones of the holiday were lessened, the basic traditions of the holiday remained a part of pop culture every year, they simply evolved and modernized.
The mystical rituals of earlier times evolved into more light-hearted fun and games. For example, the somewhat heavy concept of connecting to the dead was replaced with the more light-hearted idea of telling the future.
Apple bobbing, for example, became popular as a fortune-telling game on All Hallows’ Eve: Apples would be selected to represent all of a woman’s suitors, and the guy—er, apple—she ended up biting into would supposedly represent her future husband. In fact, Halloween previously posed a huge (albeit rather superstitious) matchmaking opportunity for young women in the 19th century.