You know what I realized this week? I have no idea why Halloween is celebrated or what the history behind it is.
To me, Halloween has always been about one thing and one thing alone: the candy. But as exciting as candy is, I decided it was about time I found out what Halloween is really all about.
So, if you don’t mind, I’d like to take you on a magical tour back in time…
Our story starts around 2000 years ago with the ancient Celtic festival of ‘Samhain’, which was held on November 1 every year.
Actually, our story starts the night before. It was believed that on the night before Samhain, the dead came back as ghosts. People left food and wine on their doorsteps to ward off these roaming spirits. And a person couldn’t just leave the house wearing anything! Whenever a person the house, he or she would wear a mask – this would trick the ghosts into thinking the person was a fellow spirit.
Presumably ghosts wouldn’t harm one of their own.
Fast forward to the 8th Century.
The Christian Church turned Samhain into ‘All Saints Day’ – or ‘All Hallows’. The Church renamed quite a few pagan festivals (even Christmas – it’s celebrated in December because the Church renamed Yule). But – while interesting – that’s not important to this story.
The important thing is: the night before Samhain became ‘All Hallows Eve’, which was later shortened to ‘Halloween’.
So that’s how we got the name. But our story doesn’t end there.
There’s another important question to answer: What’s up with trick-or-treating?
Trick-or-treating has its historical roots in Medieval Britain. On ‘All Souls Day’ – November the 2nd – those in need would beg for ‘Soul Cakes’, a type of pastry. In return, they’d pray for people’s dead relatives. This practice was called ‘Souling’.
Another medieval tradition was ‘Guising’, which involved young people dressing up in costumes and accepting food, wine, money and other goodies in exchange for singing, telling jokes or reciting poetry.
(Just to be clear: Reciting poetry was considered a good thing, and not just something you had to suffer through in English class).