The Origins of Halloween

Anybody who ever watched Hocus Pocus probably recalls Alison telling how Halloween is based on “All Hallow’s Eve” to refute Max’s conspiracy theory of Halloween having been invented by the candy companies. But where did All Hallows Eve and the belief that it was the night when spirits roamed the earth come from? The origins of that date back even further to an old European Celtic celebration called Samhain.

Samhain (pronounced sow-in in Gaelic) literally meant “Summer’s End,” as the Celts recognized only two seasons, summer and winter. (Samhain’s counterpart Gamhain or “Winter’s End” took place in early May, a tradition which evolved into the current May Day celebrations). Samhain occurred when the sun reached 15 degrees Scorpio, known as a “cross-quarter day.” It was the last harvest festival and was considered the Celtic New Year.

The Celts believed that darkness was a beginning. Just as they held that a day began at sunset rather than sunrise, so too did they believe a new year should begin as the seasons were going into a time of rest and darker days (longer nights). Being the new year, the Celts also believed that on Samhain night, beings from the spirit world could come out and mingle with the living. Hence the legends of zombies and witches and such that are associated with our present-day Halloween. Continue reading