It’s a night full of frightful ghouls, scary pumpkin faces and dark foggy nights that send shivers down your spine. Halloween is among the most exciting times of the year, and yet, it may surprise you to find that its origins are ironically not dark and ominous, but filled with love.
Well, that may be stretching it a bit, but let’s say the holiday’s roots certainly aren’t as spooky as they are today.
The true meaning of Halloween actually dates back to ancient Celtic festivals that celebrated the summer’s end and autumn harvest. Back then it was also believed that during autumn, the physical and supernatural worlds came closer together, setting the stage for some supernatural occurrences.
In later years religious celebrations such as All Saints’ Day (also known as Hallowmas, All Hallows, and Hallowtide) and All Souls’ Day also became popular in the fall (and here is where the love part comes in) and allowed families to send their prayers and love to their dearly departed family members.
Eventually this day of homage developed some superstitious elements which are more akin to the Halloween practices that we see nowadays. For example, on All Saint’s Day people believed that wearing costumes and disguises could help them conceal their identities from angry or vengeful spirits, which is how the current tradition of wearing a Halloween costume got started.
As well, villagers and children used to partake in the act of “souling“, which was the practice of singing and saying prayers for the dead in return for soul cakes (treats). In Scotland, it was popular to carry lanterns made out of scooped out turnips while souling, which is how the practice of carving pumpkins got started in America.
So if you’re feeling a little timid or frightened this Halloween, just remember that realistically the day has some fairly friendly foundations, and if there is one thing you should be scared of, it’s not all the ghosts and goblins, but the calories in all those Halloween treats.