Did You Know That Halloween is Deeply Rooted in The Ancient Celtic Festival Samhain
As millions of children and adults participate in the fun of Halloween on the night of October 31st, few will be aware of its ancient Celtic roots in the Samhain (Samain) festival.
When The Veil Is Thinnest
In Celtic Ireland about 2,000 years ago, Samhain (pronounced sow-in in Irish and sah-win in English) was the division of the year between the lighter half (summer) and the darker half (winter). At Samhain the division between this world and the otherworld was at its thinnest, allowing spirits to pass through.
A Time For Honouring Our Ancestors
The family’s ancestors were honoured and invited home whilst harmful spirits were warded off. People wore costumes and masks to disguise themselves as harmful spirits and thus avoid harm. Bonfires and food played a large part in the festivities. The bones of slaughtered livestock were cast into a communal fire, household fires were extinguished and started again from the bonfire. Food was prepared for the living and the dead, food for the ancestors was ritually shared with the less well off.
Incorporation Into The Christian Calendar
Christianity incorporated the honouring of the dead into the Christian calendar with All Saints (All Hallows) on November 1st, followed by All Souls on November 2nd. The wearing of costumes and masks to ward off harmful spirits survived as Halloween customs. The Irish emigrated to America in great numbers during the 19th century especially around the time of famine in Ireland during the 1840’s. The Irish carried their Halloween traditions to the UK and America, where today it is one of the major holidays of the year. Through time other traditions have blended into Halloween, for example the American harvest time tradition of carving pumpkins.
It’s Been celebrated For Over 2500 Years!
The entrance passage to the Mound of the Hostages on the Hill of Tara is aligned with the rising sun around Samhain. The Mound of the Hostages is 4,500 to 5000 years old, suggesting that Samhain was celebrated long before the first Celts arrived in Ireland about 2,500 years ago.
Does The Diwali Festival Have a Common Root?
The Hindu Diwali (Divali, Deepavali) Festival known as the Festival of Lights occurs about the same time as Samhain. Diwali marks the Hindu New Year just as Samhain marks the Celtic New Year, could it be that Diwali and Samhain have a common root in antiquity?
So whether your taking your children out trick or treating, having a Halloween party dressed as a vampire, or having a quiet night in. Please bear in mind that there may just be some of your ancestors and other spirits lurking in your home, maybe even sitting on the sofa beside you….whoaaahhhhh!