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Posts Tagged ‘Samhain’

The Origins of Halloween

As giddy children head out in the streets tonight for Trick or Treat with goody bags in hand, all dressed up in various ghoulish and festive costumes, it may interest students to know a little about the unusual history and traditions of Halloween. Educators can take advantage of eLibrary’s Research Topics and other documents and web resources to aid in their research.

Halloween ProQuest Research Topic

Halloween ProQuest Research Topic

Halloween, as we know it today, appears to have arisen from the convergence of two distinctly different cultures’ earlier holidays: the Irish Gaelic harvest festival Samhain (pronounced sow’in), celebrated with a feast for the dead, and the Roman Catholic Christian holiday of All Saints’ Day, or All Hallows’ Day, which also honored the dead. All Hallows’ Day was originally celebrated in mid-May and honored saints, martyrs, and family members who recently passed away.

Samhain, which is still celebrated today by some Brits and has its roots in Celtic Druidic traditions, marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. The belief was that during this time the divide between our world and the spirit world was at its thinnest and could be easily bridged. Families honored the dead by inviting them into their homes and offering food. However, when people went out at night, in order to avoid the more harmful spirits, they wore costumes and masks to disguise themselves. In addition, Druids built huge bonfires where people brought their fall harvest food to share with the community. Afterwards, people would take a log or branch from the bonfire to light their own fires at home which would keep them warm for the winter months ahead.

Celts ProQuest Research Topic

Celts ProQuest Research Topic

Around 600 A.D. Pope Gregory I, in an effort to Christianize and transform the rituals of the pagans, issued an edict to synthesize their Druidic practices into Christian practices to more easily convert them to Christianity. Eventually, All Hallows’ Day was moved from May 13 to November 1, with All Hallows’ Eve (Halloween) falling on October 31. As a result, many of the ancient Celtic traditions of Samhain survive today. Interestingly, around this same time, Mexico also celebrates El Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead) holiday. Similar to All Saints’ Day and Samhain, but with roots from the Aztec culture, it is also considered a time to celebrate the fall harvest and honor those who have passed away.

Educators can teach students more about these ancient holidays and the people who practiced these ancient rituals and traditions with the help of eLibrary with its accompanying Halloween Research Topic and other related Research Topics and resources below.

Related Research Topics:
All Saints’ Day
Celts

Druidism
Paganism
Roman Catholicism
Day of the Dead

Other Resources:
Halloween
American Heritage (Magazine)
A World of Fright
Ottawa Citizen (Newspaper)
Saint Gregory I (Pope)
Britannica Concise Encyclopedia (Reference Book)