How do we get halloween (Oct. 31) from All Saints (Nov. 1) and All Souls(Nov.2) days ?

What is the Halloween connection ?

Halloween originated in Celtic cultures and  spread to Christian.

The word Halloween is a contracted form for All Hallows’ (holy persons or saints) Evening- the day before All Saints.  

Halloween has been on Oct 31 because of the Celtic traditions.   Halloween also focused on death but on the  concept of death blending in the supernatural.    The Church scheduled All Saints and All Souls after Halloween.   The emphasis on All Soul’s  focused on those who had died only and did not dwell on stories surrounding death.

All Soul’s did  satisfy many Catholics’ interest in death and the supernatural. But the unchristian idea of wandering spirits persisted in some areas. Conceding that they could not completely get rid of the supernatural elements of the celebrations, the Catholic Church began characterizing the spirits as evil forces associated with the devil. 

Celtic Tradition

Nov. 1 marked Samhain, the beginning of the Celtic winter. (The Celts lived as early as 2,000 years ago in England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and northern France.) Samhain, for whom the feast was named, was the Celtic lord of death, and his name literally meant “summer’s end.” Since winter is the season of cold, darkness and death, the Celts soon made the connection with human death.

The eve of Samhain, Oct. 31, was a time of Celtic pagan sacrifice, and Samhain allowed the souls of the dead to return to their earthly homes that evening. Ghosts, witches, goblins and elves came to harm the people, particularly those who had inflicted harm on them in this life. Cats, too, were considered sacred because they had once been human beings who had been changed as a punishment for their evil deeds on this earth

The Roman conquest of England brought two other festivals commemorating the dead

In medieval times, one popular All Souls’ Day practice was to make “soul cakes,” simple bread desserts with a currant topping. In a custom called “souling,” children would go door-to-door begging for the cakes, much like modern trick-or-treaters. For every cake a child collected, he or she would have to say a prayer for the dead relatives of the person who gave the cake. These prayers would help the relatives find their way out of purgatory and into heaven.

The children even sang a soul cake song along the lines of the modern “Trick-or-treat, trick-or-treat, give me something good to eat.” One version of the song went:

“A soul cake! A soul cake! Have mercy on all Christian souls, for A soul cake!”

There is also some evidence of trick-or-treat type activities in the original Celtic tradition. Historians say the Celts would dress up in ghoulish outfits and parade out of town to lead the wandering spirits away. Additionally, Celtic children would walk door to door to collect firewood for a giant communal bonfire. Once the bonfire was burning, the revelers would extinguish all the other fires in the village. They would then relight every fire with a flame taken from the Samhain bonfire, as a symbol of the people’s connection to one another.

A lot of the Samhain celebration had to do with honoring Celtic gods, and there’s evidence that the Celts would dress as these deities as part of the festival. They may have actually gone door to door to collect food to offer to the gods. It is fairly clear that Samhain involved an offering of food to spirits. There may have been animal sacrifices, and some historians say the Celts even sacrificed people, but the evidence is not conclusive.

The Celts believed in fairies and other mischievous creatures, and the notion of Halloween trickery may have come from their reported activities on Samhain. There’s also good reason to suppose that the Celtic New Year’s Eve was something like our own New Year’s Eve — a time when people let go of their inhibitions, drank heavily and got into trouble. The trickery tradition may simply come from this spirit of revelry

As part of the Samhain celebration, Celts would bring home an ember from the communal bonfire at the end of the night. They carried these embers in hollowed-out turnips, creating a lantern resembling the modern day jack-o’-lantern.

But the direct predecessor of jack-o’-lanterns dates from 18th-century Ireland, where ancient Celtic traditions remained a significant part of the national culture. A very popular character in Irish folk tales was Stingy Jack, a disreputable miser who, on several occasions, avoided damnation by tricking the devil (often on All Hallows’ Eve). In one story, he convinced Satan to climb up a tree for some apples and then cut crosses all around the trunk so the devil couldn’t climb down. The devil promised to leave Jack alone forever, if he would only let him out of the tree.

When Jack eventually died, he was turned away from Heaven, due to his life of sin. But, in keeping with their agreement, the Devil wouldn’t take Jack either. He was cursed to travel forever as a spirit in limbo. As Jack left the gates of Hell, the Devil threw him a hot ember to light the way in the dark. Jack placed the ember in a hollowed-out turnip and wandered off into the world. According to the Irish legend, you might see Jack’s spirit on All Hallows’ Eve, still carrying his turnip lantern through the darkness.

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