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Where does Halloween come from?

30 October 2020 17:30

This is where Halloween began

This is where Halloween began

Light some candles and settle in for a haunted history tour as we unveil the haunting history of Halloween...

It began with the Celts

Over 2,000 years ago, Britain and much of northern France was inhabited by the Celts. At the end of October, the Celts celebrated a festival called 'Samhain'. On this night, they believed the barriers between the physical and spirit worlds broke down, allowing ghosts to wander the Earth. Celebrants joined with Druid priests to light a community fire. Prayers were said and cattle were sacrificed, while anyone who didn't participate was said to be cursed by the gods.

Then the Romans took over...

After 43 A.D, Britain became a province of the Roman Empire, who combined Samhain with a couple of their own celebrations: Feralia, a fairly similar tradition where the Romans commemorated their dead; and a day to honour Pomona, the goddess of fruit and trees. It's possible that this is where we get the tradition of apple bobbing.

All-Hallows Eve

Celebrations of death and spirits didn't fly with the Christian church, so in the 9th Century they decided to introduce All Saints' Day. This was celebrated with bonfires, parades and dressing up as saints, angels and devils. In Middle English, All Saints' Day translates to All-hallowmas, with the night before it known as All-Hallows Eve.


Arriving in 19th Century America, Irish immigrants brought one of their old Halloween traditions with them. 'Mumming' involved dressing up in costumes and going from door-to-door singing songs to the dead in return for cakes and other baked treats. This was Americanized and incorporated into Halloween traditions, becoming what we now know as trick-or-treating.

Halloween today

Today, Halloween is popular throughout the world. Trademark symbols such as creepy décor, pumpkin carving, themed costumes and trick-or-treating have become synonymous with this most haunted of days. Scary film-releases also storm the box office around this time, with classic franchises including Scream, Saw, The Conjuring and, of course, Halloween.

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