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Halloween History

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The history of Halloween goes back more than 2,000 years. The earliest celebrations of Halloween were among the Celtic people who lived in the areas which are now Great Britain and Northern France. The Celts were people who worshiped the beauty of nature. They worshiped a Sun God and believed that without him, they would not live. They also worshipped Samhain who was the lord of the dead and of the cold, dark winter season. They believed that on October 31 Samhain would call together all of the dead and these souls would take on the shape of an animal. They believed that all creatures wandered the Earth on that night. This was called the Vigil of Samhain.

The Druids, which were the priests of the Celtic people, would build fires on the hilltops in belief that the large fires would help to strengthen the Sun God, and give him power enough to overcome the lord of darkness so that the sun season could continue. They believed that the fires were sacred, therefore they burned dried crops and sacrificed animals to help strengthen the Sun God. At midnight they stop worshipping the Sun God and start to worship Samhain because he will be the ruler for the next six months. This is the starting of the new year. They perform ceremonies through the night to ask the spirits to tell the future of the upcoming year. In the morning each household receives an ember from the fire, this ember is used to start fires in their own homes with the belief that it will ward off evil spirits in the new year.

The Celts continued with their ceremonies until they were conquered by the Roman Catholics. The Roman Catholics brought with them their own customs and traditions. They had established All Saints Day or All Hallows Day on November 1. This was a day in which all saints who did not have their own declared holiday were honored. The church had hoped that by establishing this holiday, it would do away with the Vigil of Samhain and the other ceremonies and celebrations held on October 31 through November 1. But this was not so. Soon witchcraft came about, and October 31 was renamed Night of the Witch. It was believed that the devil and all of his followers (demons, witches) would come out on this night to perform unholy acts to make a mockery of the All Hallows Day celebration. These ceremonies and celebrations continued and October 31 was then called All Hallows Even. It was a night for superstitious beliefs and mystery. Through the years the name was shortened to Hallowe'en and then to Halloween.