Ancient Origins

Halloween's origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in).

The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31, they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter.

To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities.

During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other's fortunes. When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.

By A.D. 43, Romans had conquered the majority of Celtic territory. In the course of the four hundred years that they ruled the Celtic lands, two festivals of Roman origin were combined with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain.

The first was Feralia, a day in late October when the Romans traditionally commemorated the passing of the dead. The second was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple and the incorporation of this celebration into Samhain probably explains the tradition of "bobbing" for apples that is practiced today on Halloween.

By the 800s, the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands. In the seventh century, Pope Boniface IV designated November 1 All Saints' Day, a time to honor saints and martyrs. It is widely believed today that the pope was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related, but church-sanctioned holiday. The celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints' Day) and the night before it, the night of Samhain, began to be called All-hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween. Even later, in A.D. 1000, the church would make November 2 All Souls' Day, a day to honor the dead. It was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels, and devils. Together, the three celebrations, the eve of All Saints', All Saints', and All Souls', were called Hallowmas.

Source: History.com

The above text is taken from History.com. Find out much more about Halloween and watch the video about bats and vampires.

Vampire Myths Transcript

Most people assume that our belief in vampires comes from bats but in fact the opposite is true. The myth came first.
You find vampire myths in just about every culture you look at.

The truth is vampires weren’t linked to bats until 1526 when a group of European explorers made a shocking discovery in Central America.

The Spanish and Portuguese explorers came back with accounts that there really were bats that bit people and ate blood.

The explorers were bitten while sleeping by bats which as they put it; “fly like a bird but bite like a beast”.

The explorers called them vampire bats after the vampires back in Europe.

The news soon spread to Europe and people already sick with fear of the mythical vampires latched on to these blood eating bats.

It is an example of how folklore has sort of crossed over into fact.

And out of this was born vampire hysteria.

There were a number of vampire sightings throughout central and Eastern Europe. Local people were convinced that they had seen vampires; that certain people had been buried and were coming back as vampires. There were even cases where they dug up the graves and drove wooden stakes through the heart.

For literally hundreds of years people lived in fear and in the late 1800s the obsession with blood sucking bats was immortalised in Brahm Stoker’s Dracula.

Brahm Stoker’s novel Dracula was first published in 1897. It has never been out of print since.

The inspiration for Dracula was the vampire hysteria of the past 300 years, along with an obscure newspaper article.

Brahm Stoker, when he was writing Dracula, found a very interesting little article. It was published in a New York newspaper in February of 1896. Most of it was about some of these vampire sightings, but there was this little section in the article on vampire bats.

The result, by combining history and science, Stoker created an unforgettable character.

Dracula is one of, if not my absolute favourite fictional character.

You have this vampire attacking these pure virtuous women and turning them into sexually ravenous beasts.

I think that is the ultimate appeal of being a vampire.

As you have read, the origins of Halloween are Celtic but most people still associate it with the United States. The following article explains how it is celebrated in Scotland:

Scotland, having a shared Gaelic culture and language with Ireland, has celebrated the festival of Samhain robustly for centuries. Robert Burns portrayed the varied customs in his poem "Hallowe'en" (1785).

Halloween, known in Scottish Gaelic as "Oidhche Shamhna", consists chiefly of children going door to door "guising", i.e., dressed in a disguise (often as a witch or ghost) and offering entertainment of various sorts. If the entertainment is enjoyed, the children are rewarded with gifts of sweets, fruits or money. There is no Scottish 'trick or treat' tradition; on the contrary, 'trick or treat' may have its origins in the guising customs.

In Scotland a lot of folklore including that of Halloween, revolves around the belief in fairies. Children dress up in costumes and carry around a "Neepy Candle," a devil face carved into a hollowed out Neep (turnip), lit from inside, to frighten away the evil fairies.

Popular children's games played on the holiday include "dookin" for apples (i.e., retrieving an apple from a bucket of water using only one's mouth). Another popular game is attempting to eat, while blindfolded, a treacle-coated scone on a piece of string hanging from the ceiling.

Source: Wikipedia

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