All Hallows' Eve

All Hallows’ Eve, Halloween, History Dates Back 2,000 Years

By Ashley Chapmen

In All Articles
Feb 21st, 2018

All Hallows’ Eve, Halloween, History Dates Back 2,000 Years

Straddling a line between fall and winter, life and death, Halloween was a time of celebration and superstitions. It is believe that the holiday originated from an ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. Celts lived over 2,000 years ago, in the areas we now know as Ireland, the United Kingdom and Northern France. During this festival people would set bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts and superstitions. Eighth century, Pope Gregory III assigned November 1st as the time to honor saints and martyrs; this day, All Saint’s Day, was born. The evening prior became known as ‘All Hallows’ Eve‘ and as time passed later known as Halloween.

In the Celtic believes and rituals, All Hallows’ Eve was a time for superstitions, morbid sacrifices, and a time to welcome the dead. They believed that on the night of All Hallows’ Eve the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became faded allowing those dead to walk the earth again. The Celts (Celtics), believed that on this night it made it easier for the priests known as Druids to make predictions about the coming future. To prepare for the predictions they would build huge bonfires and offer sacrifices. Typically, those who participated in this ritual were costumes and attempted to tell the future.

43 A.D.

By 43 A.D., the Roman Empire had taken over the majority of Celtic territory. Over four hundred years of Celtic lands, two festivals of Roman origin had combined with the traditional Celtic celebrations of Samhain. The first festival was known as Feralia, celebrated late in October to commemorate the passing of the dead. The second day was set to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol for Pomona was the apple which probably explains the now tradition of “bobbing” for apples on Halloween.

May 13, 609 A.D., Pope Boniface IV, dedicated the Pantheon in Rome in honor of Christian martyrs, and Catholic feast, the All Martyrs Day. Establishing the first All Martyrs Day in a Western Church. Pope Gregory III (731-741 A.D.), expanded the festivals to include all saints as well as the martyrs. Pope Gregory III, also moved the day of observance from May 13 to November 1st. The church later made November 2 All Souls’ Day, in 1000 A.D., as the day to honor their dead. Today it is believe that the church was trying to replace the Celtic festival as a more church-sanctioned holiday. All Souls Day celebrated in a similar tradition to the Samhain, bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels and devils. This was when All Saints Day began called as All-hallows or All-Hallowmas from the Middle English, Alholowmesse, meaning All Saints’ Day.

Halloween Makes its first Appearance in America

All Hallows’ Eve makes its first appearance in Maryland and the southern colonies in America. The first celebrations included what was then known as “play parties”, which were public events to celebrate the harvest, neighbors would share stories of the dead, tell fortunes, and enjoy an evening of dance and singing. Colonial Halloween festivities were also a time to tell ghost stories and kick up some mischief. The middle of the 19th century, autumn festivities common in almost every location, but Halloween had yet to celebrate everywhere in America.

During the second half of the nineteenth century, Irish immigrants fled to America due to the potato famine of 1846. The new wave of immigrants helped to popularize the celebration of Halloween on a national level. Combining Irish and English traditions, Americans began dressing up in costumes on All Hallows’ Eve, going door to door asking for food or money. Later, this door to door tradition became what we know today as “trick-or-treat“. At the same time, young women believed that every Halloween they could divine the name or appearance of their future husband using tricks with year, apple parings or mirrors.


During the late 1800s, Americans began molding Halloween into a holiday focused around community and neighborly get-togethers. This took the focus off of ghosts, pranks and witchcraft. Halloween parties for both children and adults became the most common celebrations for the day. The parties focused on games, foods of the season and costumes. Newspapers and community leaders urged parents to take anything “frightening” or “grotesque” out of the Halloween celebrations in an effort to not scare children. Because of this new expectation on Halloween, the superstitions and religious overtones lost on the holiday.

the 1920s and 1930s

During the 1920s and 1930s, Halloween had become a community-centered holiday, featuring parades and town-wide parties. But, despite all the efforts from the community and schools’ vandalism plagued Halloweens celebrations in many communities. Although, by the 1950s, town leaders successfully reduced the vandalism as Halloween evolved into a holiday focused on the young. Halloween parties move from town civic centers into classrooms and homes for convenience and accommodations. After many years of the holiday focusĀ around community events and parties, the trick-or-treating revive somewhere between the 1920s and 1950s.


Today, Halloween is known as just that, Halloween. Many do not refer to it as All Hallows’ Eve, but many younger consider the holiday to be a “Night of the Dead“. Many believe now on this night each year not only do the dead rise, but zombies, vampires, werewolves and the other creatures that go bump in the night make an appearance. Halloween has grown since it was first celebrated over 2,000 years ago to be the second largest commercial holiday in America with an estimated $6 billion spent annually.

Trick-or-treating is a major deal especially for the children. They love to get dress up their costumes both scary and fantasy. They are roaming the town with friends and family while going door to door retrieving candy and sweet treats. While many towns have become putting on “haunted houses” and “haunted hay rides” as a way to entice the older kids and teenagers. Some might say, those haunted houses and hay rides are scarier than some of the movies release today. There is still bobbing for apples, games and fun for the community, but in smaller scale. Now, churches put on their own Halloween parties for the children in the church. It has truly become a day everyone either loves or dreads depending on how scared you get of the weird and unexplain.


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