Today, October 31st is Halloween. While many of us celebrate, do you know the origins of the holiday? I did some research and put together some resources.
Halloween dates back to the Celtic farming festival Samhain. As the crops died at the end of the harvest season, farmers believed there was a day when spirits could rise from their graves. During Samhain, people would dress in disguise to fool and ward off the spirits, and hope that their land would survive through the winter.
In the eighth century, Christians sought to transform the pagan holiday. Pope Gregory III declared Nov. 1 to be the feast of All Saints’ Day. The night before became known as All Hollow’s Eve.
Modern Halloween traditions and folklore first came to America in the 19th century with the influx of Irish immigrants. Carving turnips and turning them into lanterns was one of the Irish customs that honored the souls stuck in purgatory. Since pumpkins were easier to carve than turnips, this ritual adapted into jack-o-lanterns as All Hollow’s Eve celebrations took shape in America.
From the History Channel, a 3-part series on the History of Halloween:
History Channel The Real Story of Halloween Part 1 of 3
History Channel The Real Story of Halloween Part 2 of 3
History Channel The Real Story of Halloween Part 3 of 3