Why Halloween?

Xander Riley

Around this time of year, many people are getting ready to celebrate Halloween. Several stores, and even some houses, have already put up their decorations. But how many people, if asked, could tell you why they celebrate that holiday? To most people, it’s just a day you get an excuse to celebrate something. But several people have researched Halloween, and they’ve found out many things that surprised them.

For example, did you know that many of the practices associated with Halloween trace back to a Druid holiday called Samhain? It was celebrated on November 1, the Celtic new year, to honor their sun god and their god of the dead. Over time, these rituals were gradually adopted into Christianity.

Once it was a part of Christianity, it became known as All Souls’ Day, (also known as All Hallows’ Eve, which is where the word Halloween comes from), which was a day set aside to pray for the souls of dead people who hadn’t been baptized, in the hope of getting them into heaven. On this day, it was believed, the spirits of your dead loved ones would come into your home. In order to appease them, it was customary to leave out sweets. Eventually, the church encouraged people to go door to door, asking people for candy in exchange for a prayer for the spirits. That is where trick-or-treating came from.

In addition, the costumes worn on Halloween trace back to the masks that the Celtics wore on Samhain in order to scare away the evil spirits. The goal was to fool the spirits into thinking the wearer was also a spirit, so they would leave them alone. This led to people going door to door dressed as things like angles, demons, and saints.

Finally, let’s look at the carved pumpkins. They actually originated as turnips, which you would carve out and place a candle into. The candle represented a soul that was trapped in purgatory. The turnip later was replaced by a pumpkin.

This particular holiday is just one example of many practices and beliefs with origins that people don’t always know about. So next time you wear Halloween costume, or put up Halloween decorations, think about why you’re doing what you’re doing.