Halloween NightHalloween is fun but how did it start? Here’s the short answer.

More than 2000 years ago, the Celts that lived in the British Isles celebrated Samhain (pronounced SOW-un) on October 31. This marked the end of the summer, harvest time, and the start of a new year.

The Celts felt evil spirits were most active on this night coming back from the dead. To protect themselves and appease the spirits, they left offerings of food out for them. Some people would dress up in ghoulish costumes in hopes that they could lead the evil spirits away from their homes.

On this night, the Celts built a huge communal bonfire. The children were sent door to door to gather wood for the fire. Then all the fires in the homes would be extinguished. An ember from the big bonfire would be used to relight the fires in the homes. This signified the start of a new year.

To carry the embers home, the Celts would bring a hollowed out turnip to the bonfire and place the hot embers in it to carry home. The turnips looked like lanterns. This was the origins of our carved and lighted pumpkins.

Eventually Christianity spread to the Celts and their celebrations intermingled. The Roman Catholic Church celebrated All Saints’ Day also known as the All Hallows festival. The church combined these with the Celts’ Samhain. So All Hallows Eve was celebrated on October 31 and All Saints Day on November 1.

All Hallows Eve became known as Halloween. So now you know how we came to celebrate Halloween.

Discover more about the origins of Halloween.

Filed under: History of Halloween

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