Like New Year’s Day, Christmas, Easter, or Ramadan, Halloween is celebrated almost all over the world today, even if the celebration involves only external attributes, such as pumpkins, costumes, and children asking for candies. Though the initial meaning of Halloween had a lot to do with occult powers, spirits, and protection against evil forces, today it is more of a merry holiday, a little bit spooky, but still enjoyed both by adults and children. So, what are the origins of Halloween?
Historically, the word Halloween is a contraction from the phrase “All Hallows Even,” which meant the day before All Hallows Day (more known as All Saints’ Day) (About.com). It was a Catholic holiday dedicated to the commemoration of saints and martyrs for faith; today, though, we know it more as a holiday of trick-or-treating, scary costumes and entourage, and funny pranks. Gradually, Halloween has lost its religious connotations, and has turned into a holiday gladly celebrated by youth and adults across the Western world on October 31.
Although it is considered that Halloween has its origins in the early Middle Ages, some scientists think that it is even more ancient. Peter Tokofsky, an assistant professor in the department of folklore and mythology of UCLA, believes that Halloween as we know it today arose from the Celtic festival Samhain (Albany.edu). Samhain was demarcating the end of summer; on this day souls of the dead were believed to be penetrating the real world. This was also the Celtic New Year, and druids used to celebrate it with a great fire festival, to ‘support’ the dimming Sun and not to let it vanish.
It was believed that during Samhain the living were entertaining the dead; on that night, spirits were looking for a body to possess for the entire incoming year. To avoid such destiny, people would dress up like evil spirits themselves; scary masks or masks of animals were used to mimic these spirits and deceive them, thus avoiding being possessed. Most...