Halloween 2020: History and Significance of the Celtic Festival to Remember the Dead

·2 min read

Halloween 2020 is here and people have already started getting ready for their spooky look for the day. However, before it became all about dressing up as some pop-culture reference and candies, Halloween was a serious affair in ancient Europe.

Halloween can be traced to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain when the Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago mostly in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and parts of France, celebrated their new year on November 1.

Halloween has its ancient roots in the Celtic festival of Samhain when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III decided November 1 as a time to honour all saints. The All Saints Day soon fused some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before All Saints Day was known as All Hallows Eve, which we now call Halloween.

All Hallows eve marked the end of summer, the harvest season and the beginning of the dark winter, a time of year that was associated with human death. Ancient Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. The Celts celebrated Samhain on October 31 when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to the living world.

The Celts thought that the presence of spirits gave the opportunity to the Celtic priests to make predictions about the future. These prophecies were a crucial source of comfort during the long, dark winter for the ancient people.

To commemorate the event, Celtic Priests built sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. The Celts wore costumes like animal heads and skins, and attempted to read each other’s fortunes.

With colonisation, the tradition of Halloween went to America where beliefs of European ethnic groups were combined with that of American Indians. A new kind of Halloween came into being where public events to celebrate the harvests were held. People would collect to narrate stories and share their traditions. With time, Halloween became a day of activities which we now know as trick-or-treating, carving jack-o-lanterns and dressing up in costumes.