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Origin of Halloween

Halloween is celebrated on October 31st of each year. While traditionally not a massively popular celebration in Australia, it is becoming more and more celebrated, although still not marked by a Public Holiday here. There are a number of different influences which seem to have culminated in the celebration of Halloween, with different historians and sources emphasising the importance of different ones.  The origin of Halloween seems to date back for hundreds, even thousands of years.  Below is just one version of these origins.

The Celts in what is now Northern France and Great Britain, worshipped nature and had many gods, including the Sun God. 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”.  Therefore, on October 31st, harvesting of the crops was completed and stored, and cooking fires in the homes were extinguished. Celtic priests, known as Druids, would meet in a dark Oak Forest, lighting fires and offering sacrifices of crops and animals, to mark the changing of these seasons.  In the morning, the Druids would give an ember from their fires to each family, who would take them home to start new cooking fires. These fires were thought to not only keep them homes warm, but also free from evil spirits.

The Celtic Festival on 1st of November was called Samhain, lasting for around 3 days. During the festival, costumes were often worn, made from the skins and heads of their animals. It was thought that this festival was the origin of Halloween.

When the Romans invaded Britain in the first Century, they also brought with them one of their many festivals, that of Pomona Day, named for their goddess of fruits and gardens. This was also celebrated around 1st November, and after hundreds of years of Roman rule, the customs of this Day, and that of the Celtic’s Samhain festival became mixed together.

The Christian religion began to spread throughout Europe and Britain, and in 835AD the Roman Catholic Church made November 1st a church holiday to honour all the Saints. This day was known as All Saints Day, or Hallowmas, or All Hallows. Later the Church would make November 2nd into All Souls Day, to honour the dead. It was celebrated with bonfires, parades and people dressing up as Saints, Angels and Devils.  However, on the eve of All Hallows, many were still celebrating the festivals of Samhain and Pomona Day; until eventually the customs of each got mixed together. October 31st became known as All Hallow Even, eventually All Hallow’s Eve, Hallowe’en, and now Halloween.

These early influences affect the way we celebrate Halloween even today. Pomona Day’s Apples (now often often formed into Toffee Apples), nuts, lollies and harvest; the Samhain Festival’s black cats, magic, evil spirits and death; while All Saints/Souls day was retained via ghosts, skeletons and skulls.

One of the most commonly associated artifacts or symbols used to represent Halloween is the pumpkin. This is thought to have originated in Ireland and Scotland, utilising a turnip to carve out lanterns for children to take with them while visiting homes to be rewarded with cakes, honey and money. Immigrants to North America, however, used a pumpkin which was both softer and larger, making it easier to carve. Mass marketing of pumpkins in the Northern Hemisphere’s autumn, has made the pumpkin very available for this purpose.  The tradition of carving pumpkins was originally associated with harvest time in general, first recorded in 1837, but not becoming specifically associated with Halloween until the mid to late 19th century.

Of course, here at Tasty Temptations we love Trick or Treating, and we always have so many great ideas to share for you to get ready for any Halloween event. But more about Trick or Treating another time!

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