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Back to Stephen Brookes Column Index



Ghosts & Ghoolies & long haired beasties.

By: Stephen Brookes MBE


Where did Halloween originate?

Halloween is one of the oldest pagan holidays with origins going back thousands of years. The holiday we know as Halloween has had many influences from many cultures over the centuries. From its early emergence as the Roman's Pomona Day, to the Celtic festival of Samhain through to the Christian holidays of All Saints and All Souls Days.

Our Halloween goes back hundreds of years when in Britain and Northern France the Celts worshipped nature and had many gods, with the sun god as their favorite. It was "he" who commanded their work and their rest times, and who made the earth bountiful and the crops to grow.

The Celts celebrated their New Year on November 1st with a festival marking the end of the "season of the sun" and the beginning of "the season of darkness and cold."

On this day, after the crops were harvested and stored for the long winter the cooking fires in the homes would be extinguished. The Druids would meet in the hilltop in the dark oak forest (oak trees were considered sacred). They would light new fires and offer sacrifices of crops and animals. As they danced around the fires, the season of the sun passed and the season of darkness would begin.

When the morning arrived the Druids would give an ember from their fires to each family who would then take them home to start new cooking fires. These fires would keep the homes warm and free from evil spirits. It was unlucky to let the fire go out through the winter period.

The November 1st festival was called Samhain and would last for 3 days. The people would parade in costumes made from the skins and heads of their animals. This festival would become the first Halloween.

Then the Romans invaded Britain and they brought with them many of their festivals and customs. One of these was Pomona Day, named for the goddess of fruits and growth. It was also celebrated around the 1st of November.

As with many things, the Roman and British (Celtic) cultures merged and the Celtic's Samhain festival and the Roman Pomona Day mixed becoming our Halloween.

The next influence came with the spread of the new Christian religion throughout Europe and Britain. In the year 835 AD the Roman Catholic Church would made November 1st a church holiday to honour all the saints. This day was called All Saint's Day, or Hallowmas (All Hallows Day). Years later the Church then make November 2nd All Souls Day and was to honour the dead. It was celebrated with big bonfires, parades, with everyone dressing up as saints, angels and devils. But the spread of Christianity did not make people forget their early customs. On the eve of All Hallows, Oct. 31, people continued to celebrate the festivals of Samhain and Pomona Day. Over the years the customs from all these holidays mixed and became the Halloween we celebrate today including all of the apples, nuts, and harvest, the Druids black cats, magic, evil spirits and death, and the myth of ghosts, skeletons and skulls from All Saint's Day and All Soul's Day.

© Steve Brookes MBE
Copyright © - Stephen Brookes MBE 2002-2003 - All rights reserved


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