The Origins and Traditions of Halloween

The night or evening of Samhain  (pronounced Sow-ain) became known as All-hallows-eve then Hallow Eve, evolving into  Hallowe’en and then finally Halloween.

The origins of Halloween can be traced back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. Until 2,000 years ago, the Celts lived across the lands we now know as Britain, Ireland and northern France. Mainly a farming and agricultural people, the Pre-Christian Celtic year was determined by the growing seasons and Samhain was the festival that marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark cold winter symbolised by the boundries between the worlds of the living and the dead.

In each village  the local villagers would build large bonfires to ward off any evil spirits that surfaced but not to  scare away any ghosts of their families. The Druid priests, would ensure that the hearth fire of each house was re-lit from the sacred embers of the sacred bonfire in order to help protect the people of the village and keep them warm through the long winter months ahead; they would also have led the Samhain festival celebrations.

In the decades that followed, Britain was also invaded by a new religion. Christianity was arriving, spreading inwards from those northern and western extremities from the early Celtic Church, and up from Kent with the arrival of Saint Augustine from Rome in 597. Along with the Christians arrived the Christian Festivals and amongst them “All Hallows’ Day”, also known as “All Saints Day”, a day to remember those who had died for their beliefs.

Today Halloween is more commonly celebrated with Trick or Treat a custom that has travelled across the sea from America along with pumpkins, halloween parties, witches and ghouls and games such as Apple Bobbing. These are all relative newcomers to Britain as traditionally Guy Fawkes Night, fireworks and bonfires were all celebrated widely. In some areas especially in South East England the tradition of Guy Fawkes is still celebrated in the same traditions with Parades, Bonfires, Fireworks and of course Pirates but generally the american customs have infiltrated the way that we now celebrate Halloween.

Whether you celebrate this time of the year as Samhain, Halloween or  All Hallows’ Eve and with Trick or Treat or a Halloween Party we wish you A Very Happy Celebration of the end of the Summer.


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