Ghosts, skeletons, witches, horror movies and all things bloody define Halloween, and they’re generally what one thinks of when October 31 rolls around.
People dress up in costumes, go trick or treating and decorate their homes, shops and buildings with window stickers, hanging décor, flashing lights and screaming statues.
It’s an exciting time to let loose, have a little fun and get spooky.
Contrary to popular belief, Halloween didn’t start off as an American holiday. It came from a spiritual festival and celebration that dates back to the early Middle Ages.
Halloween was and is still a Sabbat called Samhain and is a Pagan celebration that originated in Europe.
In mythology, Samhain is believed to be the only day of the year when the veil between this world and the spirit world is thinnest, allowing spirits to cross over and people to contact the dead.
It’s a day to celebrate those alive and remember the dead by setting up candles and performing rituals in honour of lost loved ones and ancestors.
Falling on October 31, it was the last day of summer before the winter harvest, when people gathered cattle, grains and vegetables for the coming cold months.
Samhain is also the witches’ New Year, celebrating the day with all things nature and witchcraft.
As time went by and Samhain was celebrated yearly, other faiths began to bring their own traditions to the holiday including Christianity with their holiday All Saints Day (or All Hallows’ Day).
This holiday, held on November 1, is to celebrate and honor all the Saints that did not have their own day of celebration.
Soon after, October 31 became a holiday as the eve of All Hallows’ Day and became All Hallows’ Eve, then shortened to Halloween – the name we have today.
Although there is nothing spooky about All Hallows’ Eve traditionally, the scary things we do now are derived from Samhain. The ghosts became a staple of Halloween because of the thinning veil between worlds, and the themes of witches and witchcraft are due to many Pagans whopracticed the craft, some calling themselves witches.
Any other festivities carried out on Halloween formed over time; jack-o-lanterns were used to frighten evil spirits, superstitions were more prominent and classic literature about vampires, zombies, mummies and monsters became characters used to scare.
These traditions among many were formed in North America, as Halloween became a mainstream celebration during the 20th century.
We call it Halloween now because it’s a broader name – Samhain is a celebration exclusive to Pagans and branching beliefs. Much like with our other holidays, the Christian name was used.
While Halloween didn’t begin in the USA and technically isn’t an American holiday, some of the celebratory things we do now are why it’s common for people to think it’s American, although anyone can have fun with it and get excited about Halloween, no matter where they live. – Reported and photographed by Sheree Di-Lorenzo