The History of Halloween
The Early Origins

On October 31, children of all ages dress up in costumes and hit the streets to collect treats and have some fun. Certainly, we all have memories of our own childhood antics on this special day, but how much do you know about the origin of Halloween?

In recent years, some church groups have discouraged members from participating in Halloween celebrations, teaching that that the holiday has its roots in pagan customs and involves devil worship. But the truth is, Halloween is derived in part from early Christianity.

On November 1, 731AD, Pope Gregory dedicated a chapel in St. Peterís basilica to all the saints, declaring that date All Hallows Day. Citizens were encouraged to participate in parades and pageants, masquerading as saints. October 31 was designated All Hallows Eve, and ultimately, this was abbreviated to Halloween.

However, long before the Christian holiday was declared, the Celts in Ireland had traditionally marked October 31 as the official end of summer and celebrated the Celtic New Year in honor of Samhain, lord of the dead. At that time, some people believed that the spirits of all the people who had died during the past year would return, looking for bodies for possession. Those not wishing to be possessed would darken their homes and dress up in costumes to fool the spirits.

They gathered together and built huge bonfires where people would sacrifice crops and even animals to honor their deities. Additionally, they would roam the neighborhoods, creating noise and wracking havoc in order to dissuade the spirits from taking them over! At the end of the celebration, they would all take flames from the sacred bonfire to reignite their home fires.

Next: More modern Halloween history, customs and traditions.

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