Are you ready for the spookiest night of all year? Nowadays we’re all familiar with Halloween and all its traditions such as trick-or-treating, bonfires, costume parties, visiting “haunted houses” and carving jack-o-lanterns. But, where do these festivities come from?
The word Halloween is a shortening of All Hallows’ Evening also known as Hallowe’en or All Hallows’ Eve and it has its origins in the ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain (pronounced “sah-win” in English and “Samaín” in Galician).
The festival of Samhain is a celebration of the end of the harvest season in Gaelic culture. It was a time used by the ancient pagans to take stock of supplies and prepare for winter. The ancient Gaels believed that on October 31, the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead overlapped and the deceased would come back to life and cause havoc such as sickness or damaged crops.
The festival would frequently involve bonfires as it was believed that the fires attracted insects to the area which attracted bats. These are additional attributes of the history of Halloween.
Masks and costumes were worn in an attempt to mimic the evil spirits or appease them but, actually, the practice of dressing up in costumes and begging door to door for treats on holidays goes back to the Middle Ages. Trick-or-treating resembles the late medieval practice of “souling,” when poor folk would go door to door on Hallowmas (November 1), receiving food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day (November 2).
But then, how come the USA is now the country which celebrates it the most?
Well, Irish and Scottish immigrants carried versions of the tradition to North America in the nineteenth century and it stuck. Halloween is now popular in the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, and due to increased American cultural influence in recent years, imported through exposure to US television and other media, trick-or-treating has started to occur among children in many parts of Europe, and in the Saudi Aramco camps of Dhahran, Akaria compounds and Ras Tanura in Saudi Arabia.
The most significant growth and resistance is in the United Kingdom, where the police have threatened to prosecute parents who allow their children to carry out the “trick” element.
As you can see, Galician, Irish and Scottish people share a very profound bond: The Celtic culture. We share cultural background and traditions which shouldn’t be overlooked! So go ahead and enjoy Halloween or Samhain, because, at the end of the day, the name is the least important thing!
Happy and spooky Halloween and Samhain folks! Watch out for ghosts!!!
Special thank you to our teacher Eoin for contributing to this post. Cheers Eoin!