By Susan Grigsby / Daily Kos
Of the differing schools of thought on the origins of Halloween, I prefer the one that roots it in ancient Celtic tradition. And since no one seems to know for sure, why not? According to the American Folklife Center, Halloween originated with the ancient pre-Christian Celtic celebration of Samhain.
The festival observed at this time was called Samhain (pronounced Sah-ween). It was the biggest and most significant holiday of the Celtic year. The Celts believed that at the time of Samhain, more so than any other time of the year, the ghosts of the dead were able to mingle with the living, because at Samhain the souls of those who had died during the year traveled into the otherworld. People gathered to sacrifice animals, fruits, and vegetables. They also lit bonfires in honor of the dead, to aid them on their journey, and to keep them away from the living. On that day all manner of beings were abroad: ghosts, fairies, and demons–all part of the dark and dread.
As the Catholic Church moved into the British Isles, the Celtic New Year holiday was pre-empted to honor All Saints and Martyrs (the Hallowed), especially those who did not have a specific date set aside for them. Since the Celtic festival continued unabated, the Church then introduced All Souls day wherein prayers for the dead were said on the following day, November 2. [Read more…]