Tracing the Roots of Halloween
The Origin of Halloween
The American version of Halloween has it's roots in Druidism and predates Christianity (the original date would differ due to a different calendar). The celebration was known at the time as Samhain, which is pronounced sow-en, and originated in the Celtic regions of the earth.
November 1st marked the beginning of the new year and the start of a long and harsh winter. The Celts practiced worship and idolization of false gods and they believed that the night prior to the new year caused a convergence, and the land of the living and the land of the dead became obscured and overlapped. Both good and evil spirits roamed the earth at this time, according to legend.
The Celts believed that malevolent spirits came back to the land of the living to bring trouble and mischief and to destroy both animals and crops, and to bring death to the living, during this time before the new year. (Starting the New Year with the festival of SAMHAIN, when the world starts to darken into winter. The veil between the human world and the world of the dead becomes very thin. This gives you the opportunity to invite your ancestors over the veil to join in the feast. The following day in the calendar has no name, this is to stop the spirits from being trapped in our world, and to make the journey back over the veil much easier. The modern date for this is 31 October, and goes a long way to explaining the depiction of the ghosts and ghouls at Halloween (All Hallows Eve). The Christian church was unable to stop this festival, so they tacked on All Souls Day, and All Saints Day, to try to counter the effects following Halloween...from http://www.gallica.co.uk/celts/calendar.htm)
Samhain actually means 'summer's end'. At this time the Celts would make costumes from the skins parts of animals they had killed. They made large bonfires and they practiced sacrificial offerings of the weaker and older animals as well as the less fruitful of their harvested crops. Using turnips, potatoes or beets or such, the Celts made lanterns with burning embers of the bonfire. The Celts believed these lanterns would offer protection from the evil spirits that were roaming about to find a target. The Celts also dressed in costumes that they might fool the evil spirits into believing that they were one of them, securing their safety from possession or even death.
The Celtic regions were eventually conquered by the Roman Catholic Church. The Church had began a practice known as 'All Saints Day or All Hallow's Day'. This was a day (Nov. 1st) that the saints that had died, were honored. The two celebrations merged (Samhain and All Hallow's Day) and halloween (All Hallow's Eve) slowly evolved. Today, most all of the pagan and heathen religions of the world use this mergence to celebrate and claim this day as their own.