Halloween is all about costumes, parties, and trick-or-treating, but that is only a recent development of the last seventy-five years. Halloween actually began with a more dark and magical purpose thousands of years ago. It was a long journey from the spirits of the dead to your little sister’s must-have princess costume.
Eve of Samhain
actually began as a Celtic pagan festival in Ireland, but it didn't actually have name we all know and love. The beginning of November marked the season for winter and food shortages, or Samhain – the season of death. Evil spirits began to appear on November 1, so to scare away the evil spirits on the Eve of Samhain, families would paint scary faces on gourds or pumpkins and even disguise themselves in scary costumes.
Villages would light big bonfires for sacrifices and prophecies, and it was widely acknowledged that fairies would also go door to door on the Eve of Samhain in disguise. As it is not wise to anger a fairy, villagers would offer the fairies food. It was also well-known that fairies would punish those who did not offer these door-to-door visitors some form of treat.
Blending Death and Harvest
Overtime, the Celtic people were conquered by the Romans and the traditions began to change. As the Romans began moving in next door to the Celts,
a Roman harvest festival that fell around the same time as Eve of Samhain began to blur the lines. Suddenly symbols of harvest such as hay and apples became part of the festival to ward off evil spirits.
All Saint's Day
The Catholic Church grew in Europe for hundreds of years until it was the main power throughout the entire area. To be the dominant religion, the church had to make the people stop celebrating pagan holidays, such as Samhain, so it simply replaced one festival with another. The Catholic church created All Saint's Day to honor the Catholic saints and to replace Samhain and its celebration, but was met with limited success.
The villagers still had a festival for Eve of Samhain since All Saint's Day was technically the next day and did not interfere with the original celebration. Finally the church decided that young men should dress up on the eve of All Saint's Day and go door-to-door collecting food for the needy, thus creating a new purpose for much of the original festival.
For hundreds of years after the creation of All Saint's Day, both the Catholic Church and the descendents of the Celtic villagers felt they had won a great victory. In truth, the traditions of the two were simply blending together into what more closely resembles the holiday we know and love today. By now, almost one thousand years later, both Samhain and All Saint's Day had been replaced with the title, All Hallows' Day. The night before All Hallows' Day, of course, is All Hallow's Eve, or Halloween.
When Protestants first began arriving in America, they not only shunned all Catholic holidays, including Halloween, they banned all celebrations – including Christmas. It was not until the late 1800s that the traditions and customs associated with the European Halloween began to arrive in America with the huge number of European immigrants. From there, the holiday was reintroduced and quickly spread about the country. By 1930, Halloween was celebrated all over the United States.
Halloween, as we celebrate it today, has almost no religious connotations. It is an opportunity to get dressed up in fun costumes, take in a few parties, and try to avoid having to drag your little brother trick-or-treating again this year. The painted gourds have been replaced by jack-o-lanterns, and trickster fairies have been replaced by tricksters only dressed up as fairies, but the fun and celebration at the heart of the holiday are still alive and well.
Find you ideal costume here on the Doll Palace, or practice being too cool to actually dress up by putting together a fabulous outfit for whatever parties you plan on attending. Have a wonderful and safe Halloween, and hope the ghosts, witches and goblins that come for you are only after your treats...