Origin of Halloween / Samhain
Sometimes I write articles to inform others and sometimes I write to inform myself and force myself to do the research. As Halloween approaches I thought I'd take some time to explore the origin of the holiday. What better way than to write a post on it right? ...right? Well, it doesn't matter because I did it anyway.
Halloween began as a the Festival of Samhain about 2,000 years ago. It was created as a way for the Celts to scare away ghosts and spirits. They believed around that time of the year, the wall between their realm and ours thinned. And what better way to scare old people spirits away than throwing a RAGER and playing music too loud?
In Irish mythology, Samhain was one of the four festivals celebrated throughout the calendar year focusing mainly on the dead. Samhain's opposite was Bealtaine; a holiday celebrating the living. To better understand Samhain within lore, you can read The Boyhood Deeds of Fionn and Aillen.
It's hard to accurately describe how exactly these holidays played out 2,000 years ago, but tales from around that period hinted at sacrifice. Some scholars have even speculated that human sacrifice was involved, many times being kings.
Not only was Samhain about the dead, it also marked the end of the harvest and beginning of winter. One element that always stuck was the image of a bonfire in later literature. Families would take a piece of the main bonfire home with them. They would then light a fire at their own place securing a communal bond with the others.
Samhain eventually intertwined with the Christian Holiday "All Hallows Eve" on November 1st and then...
It Became SUPER 'MERICAN.
In the 19th century, the Irish brought their shenanigans here and SHIT GOT SPOOKY. Then the 20th century hit and Halloweens popularity skyrocketed further. Everyone, whoop out your spooki bois and let's beg for candy!
People are somewhat split on the origin of Trick or Treating. Some think it came from Celts who believed that during Samhain, spirits would visit their homes despite the totally scary party going on. To appease them, they would give the spirits a gift. How'd they hold them you may ask? I don't know. I need to re-watch Casper for clarification on non-corporeals handling corporeal items.
Others believe it was a tradition people held of going door to door and asking for soul cakes.
Whatever the origin, 3-10 year old me really appreciated the candy-begging tradition. Okay, maybe like 3-15 year old me. Okay, 3-18. Okay, 3 to now and I wear a full costume and get my friend Neil who looks and is a dad to take me around a neighborhood. Are you happy?
Most people ask, "Is Halloween a Pagan or Christian holiday?" The answer: It's both! And also, who cares! Lighten up! Everyone can celebrate it without offending their god, gods, or lack of one.
I don't know if it's the decor, the movies, the dressing up, the candy stealing from children; whatever it is and whatever its exact origins are, Halloween is one of my favorite holidays.
Celts made it. Christians did something similar. The two holidays merged like a Megazord. Irish people drunkenly brought it to America. Now spooky decor takes half of our paycheck each year as Target and the At Home Store stocks go up.