Where did Halloween Originate?

The carved jack-o'-lantern is a prominent symbol of Halloween.
The carved jack-o'-lantern is a prominent symbol of Halloween.

Halloween is a celebration held in a number of countries every October on the 31st day of the month. The celebration is also known as All Saint’s Eve, Allhalloween, or All Hallow’s Eve. Halloween is celebrated on the eve of Reformation Day and All Hallows Day both commemorating the Western Christian feast. The celebration marks the beginning of a three-day observance of the Allhallowtide which is a time in the Christian year put aside to remember the dead which includes all of the faithful departed, the saints and the martyrs.


Traditional Halloween activities include the carving jack-o’-lanterns from pumpkins, trick-or-treating, watching horror movies, playing divination games, going to Halloween Costume events, apple bobbing, telling scary tales, playing pranks, lighting bonfires, and visiting haunted attractions. However, in different parts of the world, Christians who observe All Hallow’s Eve do different activities such as lighting candles on graves of the deceased and attending church service. However, for most people who partake, Halloween is a more secular and commercial festivity. Historically some of the Christians who observed the Christian Feast abstained from eating meat all All Hallow’s Eve which is a custom that reflected on the consumption of particular vegetarian foods such as soul cakes, apples, and potato pancakes.


Many of the Halloween traditions are largely believed to have originated from the beliefs and customs of the Celtic-speaking countries. Some of these countries are also believed to have pagan roots. The origin of Halloween is not quite clear because there are different theories of the origin of the celebration. For instance, an American professor and folklorist, Jack Santino wrote that there was a connection between beliefs and customs associated with Irish religions even before Christianity and there were those that associated with Christianity as well. On the other hand, Nicholas Rogers a historian argues that there are folklorists who believe that Halloween originated from the Roman feast of Pomona the goddess of seeds and fruits. Some of the folklorists also believe that Halloween could also be linked to Parentalia, the festival of the dead which is linked to Samhain a Celtic festival meaning ‘summer’s end’.

Influence of Christianity on Halloween

Traditions observed during Halloween today are also believed to have been influenced by Christian practices and dogma. Since the period of ‘early Church’, major Christian feasts like Pentecost, Christmas, and Easter featured vigils that would start on the night before the day of the feast. In this regard, Halloween or All Hallow’s Eve was observed on the day before the All Hallows’ and the All Souls’ Day which are celebrated on November 1st and 2nd. Collectively, the three days are known as Allhallowtide. However, the commemoration of martyrs and saints were held on different dates by a number of churches. For instance, the Pantheon which was dedicated to ‘St Mary and all the martyrs’ by Pope Boniface was observed in Rome on May 13th in 609. Coincidentally, an ancient Roman festival of the dead known as Lemuria and the commemoration of Edessa during the time of Ephrem were both held on the same date.

Halloween Around the World

The importance and traditions of Halloween differ significantly among the nations that celebrate it, different places have different activities. For instance, in Ireland and Scotland, the traditional Halloween activities involve children dressing up in different costumes and going trick-or-treating or holding parties while others involve having firework displays or lighting bonfires. Countries such as Canada and the US have had a great impact on how Halloween is celebrated in other countries.


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