Halloween is one of the oldest holidays still celebrated today. It's origins go back thousands of years and has been influenced by many cultures.
The original celebration from which Halloween sprang was Samhain (sow-en), the Celtic New Year. When the Romans invaded Britain they brought with them their own customs and festivals. One festival known as Pomona day was celebrated at the same time as the Celtic New Year. Pomona was the Roman goddess of fruits and gardens. During the Roman occupation the two festivals became one and began to share customs. It is to the Roman festival of Pomona that we can thank for the tradition of 'dooking for apples'.
In recent times many members of the church have been critical of people celebrating Halloween, believing the holiday to be evil. It is strange then to think that the church created the Halloween we know today. When the first Christian missionaries travelled across pagan Europe and Britain they did not attempt to change the ancient ways but instead incorporated the beliefs into the Christian ideology.
In 835 AD the Roman Catholic church made November the1st, the Celtic New Year, a religious holiday in honour of all the Saints. This day was called All Saint's Day, or Hallowmas, or All Hallows. The day after All Saints day the church made All Souls Day to honour the dead. On that day people would light bonfires and parade through the villages dressed as ghosts or skeletons, saints, angels and devils. October the 31st then became known as 'All Hallow Even' which evolved over time to 'All Hallow's Eve, then to Hallowe'en and finally to the name and spelling we use today - Halloween.
For most of us Halloween is a time to dress up, party and have some scary fun, but to some members of society it still holds spiritual significance. The rise of new wave religions, with their tendency to follow the old ways and worship nature and the seasons, has returned Halloween to its original Celtic status.
Modern Traditions Of Halloween
The American tradition of "trick-or-treating" probably dates back to the early All Souls' Day parades in England. During the festivities, poor citizens would beg for food and families would give them pastries called "soul cakes" in return for their promise to pray for the family's dead relatives.
The majority of Christians ascribe no doctrinal significance to Halloween, treating it as a purely secular entity devoted to celebrating imaginary spooks and handing out candy. The secular celebration of Halloween may loom larger in contemporary imagination than does All Saints Day.