The Celts lived in what are now England, France and Ireland. The Halloween story begins when these people spent all spring and summer growing food to last them through the winter. When it was time to harvest all the food, the Celts held a festival to thank the good spirits for their help. This festival was called Samhain (pronounced sow-en). It was held on the day that marked the end of warm light weather and the beginning of dark cold weather-November 1. As part of the celebration, people wore costumes, told fortunes and ate plenty of good food. They also made sacrifices to keep bad spirits away.
All Saint’s Day
Several hundred years later, other beliefs and religions spread to the Celtic lands. The new religion, Christianity, believed that November 1 was a day to honor people who died for their religion. Celtic people understood how November 1 was a good day to honor good spirits-they had been doing it for centuries. The day became known as “All Saint’s Day” or “All-hallowmas.” The night before the festival day, October 31, became known as “All-hallows Eve” or “Hallowe’en.”
Because November 1 was a day for good spirits and souls, the night before was thought to be the time for bad spirits to roam free. Halloween turned into a scary time for people who believed that evil spirits would wander the earth to do mischief and cause trouble. To feel safe, people began to put lanterns in their windows and in front of their doors to scare away spirits. They made lanterns out of carved turnips and other vegetables and, in general, did not consider the time a happy Halloween.
Today’s Halloween celebrations combine the joyous fun and food of the Samhain festivals of the Celts with the more creepy and spooky aspect of All Hallows Eve. Costumes, pumpkins and imaginary spooks all combine to make one of the more popular holidays in the United States where people wish each other a “Happy Halloween.”