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Origins – the Celts
   History has recorded for us the origin of Halloween. Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival called Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celtic people lived over 2,000 years ago in the area now called Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France. By the first century B. C. they spread over much of Europe.
   The Celts believed that November 1 began their new year as it marked the end of summer and harvest time and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year often associated with human death. The Celts believed that the night before, October 31, stood as a boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead.
   During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other's fortunes.
   From Celtic and Anglo-Saxon times, October 31 was observed as the eve of the new year, a time of death and renewal, and was called Samhain, believed as the time when the ghosts of the dead returned to earth.
   In general, the Celts believed that the sinful souls of those who died during the year had been transferred to the bodies of animals. They believed that their sins could be forgiven by gifts and offerings and that their souls would be freed to claim a heavenly reward. At this time of the year the days are short and the Celts simulated the light and heat of the sun by building large bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities.
By 43 AD, 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 Alhollowmesse 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 1000 AD, 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.

   The earliest known records of the Druids come from the 3rd century BC. According to Julius Caesar, who is the principal source of information about the Druids, they seemed to frequent the oak forests and acted as priests, teachers and judges. Once a year the Druids assembled at a sacred place in the territory of the Carnutes, which was believed to be the center of all Gaul, and all legal disputes were there submitted to the judgment of the Druids.
   The Druids offered human sacrifices for those who were gravely sick or in danger of death in battle, even those who abstained from warfare. Generally, they would choose to sacrifice criminals, but would choose innocent victims, if necessary.
   In the early period, Druids, who were occupied with magico-religious duties, performed certain rites in clearings in the forest. Sacred buildings were used only later under Roman influence. The Druids were suppressed in Gaul by the Romans under Tiberius (reigned 14 – 37 AD) and probably in Britain a little later. In Ireland they lost their priestly functions after the coming of Christianity and survived as poets, historians, and judges (filid, senchaidi, and brithemain). Many scholars believe that the Hindu Brahman in the East and the Celtic Druid in the W est were lateral survivals of an ancient Indo-European priesthood.
   The Druids principle doctrine was that the soul was immortal and passed at death from one person to another. Druidism is a religious faith of ancient Celtic inhabitants of Gaul and the British Isles from the second century BC to the second century AD. This religion included the belief in the immortal soul, which at death was believed to pass into the body of a newborn child.
   The observances connected with Halloween are thought to have originated among the ancient Druids, who believed on that evening (October 31) Saman (Samhain), the lord of the dead, called forth hosts of evil spirits. The Druids customarily lit great fires on Halloween, apparently for the purpose of warding off all these spirits. Common to both the Druids and other pagan beliefs, it was a time when the dead came back to life to mingle with the living. Samhain was thought to be the judge of the souls who determined their future.
Celebrations, The Complete Book of American Holidays, p. 258, says that at this time the Druids offered sacrifices to their sun god and that “it was common for horses to be sacrificed since they were sacred to the Sun God. There were also human sacrifices. Men, mostly criminals, were imprisoned in wicker and thatch cages shaped like animals or giants. The Druid priests set fire to the tindery cages and the men were burned to death. In the Middle Ages in Europe, black cats were still being thrown to the flames in wicker cages, for they were thought to be the friends of witches or even transformed witches.”
   What we now call Halloween was not so-called by the Druids. They celebrated what was called the Feast of Samhain. When the feast was over, villagers donned masks and costumes to represent the souls of the dead and paraded to the outskirts of town to lead the ghosts away.
   In some areas, food was set outside for the spirits so that they would leave the house untouched. The trick-or-treat custom of today only re-enacts this ancient superstition.

Catholic Church Involvement
   The celebration in the Roman Catholic Church, which would later merge with the Feast of Samhain, was known as All Saints’ Day. This celebration “originated in the 7th century when the Pantheon at Rome was wrested from the barbarians, made into a cathedral, and renamed the Church of the Blessed Virgin and All Martyrs. Thus, from honoring all gods (which is the meaning of the Greek word ‘pantheon’) the Pantheon became the center for glorifying all saints,” Funk and Wagnall’ s Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, p. 363.
   To increase the popularity of Catholicism (increase their membership) the Catholic Church merely incorporated these pagan beliefs into the catholic beliefs.
   Even though this day, to honor all “the holy saints,” was originally observed on the eve of May 13, Pope Gregory IV, in 835, decreed that November 1 should be universally observed as the day to honor the dead and to call it the Roman Catholic All Saints Day. This is why October 31 is called “Halloween.” It is the evening before the day when one was to hallow all the saints.

Halloween Comes to America
   As European immigrants came to America, they brought their varied Halloween customs with them. Because of the rigid Protestant belief systems that characterized early New England, celebration of Halloween in colonial times was extremely limited there.
   It was much more common in Maryland and the southern colonies. As the beliefs and customs of different European ethnic groups, as well as the American Indians, meshed, a distinctly American version of Halloween began to emerge. The first celebrations included "play parties," public events held to celebrate the harvest, where neighbors would share stories of the dead, tell each other's fortunes, dance, and sing. Colonial Halloween festivities also featured the telling of ghost stories and mischiefmaking of all kinds. By the middle of the nineteenth century, annual autumn festivities were common, but Halloween was not yet celebrated everywhere in the country.
   In the second half of the nineteenth century, America was flooded with new immigrants. These new immigrants, especially the millions of Irish fleeing Ireland's potato famine of 1846, helped to popularize the celebration of Halloween nationally. Taking from Irish and English traditions, Americans began to dress up in costumes and go house to house asking for food or money, a practice that eventually became today's "trick-or-treat" tradition. Young women believed that, on Halloween, they could divine the name or appearance of their future husband by doing tricks with yarn, apple parings, or mirrors.
   In the late 1800s, there was a move in America to mold Hal- loween into a holiday more about community and neighborly get-togethers, than about ghosts, pranks, and witchcraft.
   At the turn of the century, Halloween parties for both children and adults became the most common way to celebrate the day. Parties focused on games, foods of the season, and festive costumes. Parents were encouraged by newspapers and community leaders to take anything "frightening" or "grotesque" out of Halloween celebrations. Because of their efforts, Halloween lost most of its superstitious and religious overtones by the beginning of the twentieth century.
   By the 1920s and 1930s, Halloween had become a secular, but community-centered holiday, with parades and town-wide parties as the featured entertainment. Despite the best efforts of many schools and communities, vandalism began to plague Halloween celebrations in many communities during this time. By the 1950s, town leaders had successfully limited vandalism and Halloween had evolved into a holiday directed mainly at the young. Due to the high numbers of young children during the fifties baby boom, parties moved from town civic centers into the classroom or home, where they could be more easily accommodated. Between 1920 and 1950, the centuries-old practice of trick-or-treating was also revived. Trick-or-treating was a relatively inexpensive way for an entire community to share the Halloween celebration. In theory, families could also prevent tricks being played on them by providing the neighborhood children with small treats. A new American tradition was born, and it has continued to grow. Today, Americans spend an estimated $6.9 billion annually on Halloween, making it the country's second largest commercial holiday.

   Webster defines Halloween as “the evening of October 31; the eve of All Saints’ Day; All Hallows Eve: observed especially by children in costumes who solicit treats, often by threatening minor pranks.” Have not most of us heard the phrase “trick or treat” uttered by children on this day? One can easily observe parents driving their children from block to block so they can go door to door uttering this phrase in hopes of receiving candy and goodies from people.
   Webster places the following definition on the phrase “trick or treat”: “A children’s Halloween custom, in which they call on neighbors, using this phrase, and threaten to play a trick if a treat is not given.” Is it children only who follow this custom? If one is truly observant, one will see young adults doing the same. Is this not extortion? Webster defines extortion as an act or instance of wresting or wringing (money, information, etc.) from a person by violence, intimidation, or abuse of authority.
   On this day when a home-owner opens the front door and hears the chant “trick-or-treat,” doesn’t he quickly reach for the bowl of prepared treats to give away? The homeowner may simply believe no harm will be done if he gives free gifts. But, by doing so he only promotes the celebration of the pagan beliefs of setting out gifts to ward off the evil spirits.
   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.

Soul Cakes
   The distribution of soul cakes was encouraged by the church as a way to replace the ancient practice of leaving food and wine for roaming spirits. The practice, which was referred to as "going a-souling" was eventually taken up by children who would visit the houses in their neighborhood and be given ale, food, and money.

   The tradition of dressing in costume for Halloween has both European and Celtic roots. Hundreds of years ago, winter was an uncertain and frightening time. Food supplies often ran low and, for the many people afraid of the dark, the short days of winter were full of constant worry. On Halloween, when it was believed that ghosts came back to the earthly world, people thought that they would encounter ghosts if they left their homes. To avoid being recognized by these ghosts, people would wear masks when they left their homes after dark so that the ghosts would mistake them for fellow spirits. On Halloween, to keep ghosts away from their houses, people would place bowls of food outside their homes to appease the ghosts and prevent them from attempting to enter.
   The use of large, or small, pumpkins, with a somewhat grotesque face carved on it, is representative of Samhain, the god of the dead, who would ward off evil spirits that night.

   People have been making jack o'lanterns at Halloween for centuries. The practice originated from an Irish myth about a man nicknamed "Stingy Jack." According to the story, Stingy Jack invited the Devil to have a drink with him. True to his name, Stingy Jack didn't want to pay for his drink, so he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin that Jack could use to buy their drinks. Once the Devil did so, Jack decided to keep the money and put it into his pocket next to a silver cross, which prevented the Devil from changing back into his original form. Jack eventually freed the Devil, under the condition that he would not bother Jack for one year and that, should Jack die, he would not claim his soul. The next year, Jack again tricked the Devil into climbing into a tree to pick a piece of fruit. While he was up in the tree, Jack carved a sign of the cross into the tree's bark so that the Devil could not come down until the Devil promised Jack not to bother him for ten more years.
   Soon after, Jack died. As the legend goes, God would not allow such an unsavory figure into heaven. The Devil, upset by the trick Jack had played on him and keeping his word not to claim his soul, would not allow Jack into hell. He sent Jack off into the dark night with only a burning coal to light his way. Jack put the coal into a carved-out turnip and has been roaming the Earth with ever since. The Irish began to refer to this ghostly figure as "Jack of the Lantern," and then, simply "Jack O'Lantern."
   In Ireland and Scotland, people began to make their own versions of Jack's lanterns by carving scary faces into turnips or potatoes and placing them into windows or near doors to frighten away Stingy Jack and other wandering evil spirits. In England, large beets are used. Immigrants from these countries brought the jack o'lantern tradition with them when they came to the United States. They soon found that pumpkins, a fruit native to America, make perfect jack o'lanterns.

   Halloween has always been a holiday filled with mystery, magic and superstition. It began as a Celtic end-of-summer festival during which people felt especially close to deceased relatives and friends. For these friendly spirits, they set places at the dinner table, left treats on doorsteps and along the side of the road and lit candles to help loved ones find their way back to the spirit world.
   Today's Halloween ghosts are often depicted as more fearsome and malevolent, and our customs and superstitions are scarier too. W e avoid crossing paths with black cats, afraid that they might bring us bad luck. This idea has its roots in the Middle Ages, when many people believed that witches avoided detection by turning themselves into cats. We try not to walk under ladders for the same reason. This superstition may have come from the ancient Egyptians, who believed that triangles were sacred; it also may have something to do with the fact that walking under a leaning ladder tends to be fairly unsafe. And around Halloween, especially, we try to avoid breaking mirrors, stepping on cracks in the road or spilling salt.
   The word “witch” comes from the Anglo-Saxon “wicce” meaning “wise one.” Witches are said to use living talismans through which they derive their mystical powers. Witch hunting during “Halloween” became almost a national pastime in the early colonial times.
The ABC’s of Witchcraft, pp. 48, report that the broomstick is a symbol of the male organ on which the witch mounts and leaps high around the fields to “teach” the crops how high to grow.
   The skeleton is called the witches’ “horned god.” Under “skull,” the Dictionary of Lore and Legend says, “symbol of death, often with crossed bones beneath.” Like the head of Osiris in Egypt, the skulls of ancestors are worshipped in order to establish connections with the spirits of the dead.
   But the scriptures give a strong warning about this.
When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their Elohim? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? (Isa. 8:19 - 20 NIV).
   But what about the Halloween traditions and beliefs that today's trick-or-treaters have forgotten all about? Many of these obsolete rituals focused on the future instead of the past and the living instead of the dead. In particular, many had to do with helping young women identify their future husbands and reassuring them that they would someday ― with luck, by next Halloween! ― be married.
   In 18th-century Ireland, a matchmaking cook might bury a ring in her mashed potatoes on Halloween night, hoping to bring true love to the diner who found it. In Scotland, fortune-tellers recommended that an eligible young woman name a hazelnut for each of her suitors and then toss the nuts into the fireplace. The nut that burned to ashes rather than popping or exploding, the story went, represented the girl's future husband. (In some versions of this legend, confusingly, the opposite was true: The nut that burned away symbolized a love that would not last.) Another tale had it that if a young woman ate a sugary concoction made out of walnuts, hazelnuts and nutmeg before bed on Halloween night, she would dream about her future husband. Young women tossed apple-peels over their shoulders, hoping that the peels would fall on the floor in the shape of their future husbands' initials; tried to learn about their futures by peering at egg yolks floating in a bowl of water; and stood in front of mirrors in darkened rooms, holding candles and looking over their shoulders for their husbands' faces.
   Other rituals were more competitive. At some Halloween parties, the first guest to find a burr on a chestnut-hunt would be the first to marry; at others, the first successful apple -bobber would be the first down the aisle.
   Of course, whether we're asking for romantic advice or trying to avoid seven years of bad luck, each one of these Halloween superstitions relies on the good will of the very same "spirits" whose presence the early Celts felt so keenly. Ours is not such a different holiday after all!

Let the Scriptures Be Our Guide
   Many parents will say to let their children go out on Halloween night and enjoy some innocent fun. They’re not hurting anyone. Can the origins of Halloween be anything but pagan? Allowing children to participate is nothing short of saying pagan ways are alright. But doesn’t Yahweh say in Jeremiah 10:2,
   Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.
   Yahweh further says in Deuteronomy 18:12 - 13:
   For all that do these things are an abomination unto Yahweh: and because of these abominations Yahweh your Elohim does drive them out from before you. You shall be perfect with Yahweh your Elohim.
   We are to strive towards perfection. We shall not achieve perfection until Yahshua returns to set up the Kingdom. Matthew 5:48 says,
   Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
   Just because an act seems innocent in no way guarantees Yahweh’ s approval. Halloween is just another occasion enshrouded with pagan connections.

-Elder Roger G. Meyer

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