Halloween and its celtic origin

24 September, 2012 0 Comments


We are accustomed to associate Halloween with the United States. But long before that American children were door to door dressed with monstrous costumes in search of a sweet booty, in Ireland was already brewing this unique celebration.

To speak of these beginnings we have to go back to some 2,500 years ago, when the Celtic people traditionally lived on the island. By that time, the Celts celebrated the end of the summer and the beginning of what they called “the dark station” in a festivity called Samhain, which began the night for the October 31 of our calendar. This change in season also marked the beginning of the Celtic New Year, whose first day was our current November 1.

There is an old legend that says that, during the last night of the year, the spirits of the dead returned to the world of the living, going to the places they had lived, visiting their more dear relatives. To do this, the family should light a candle for each of the deceased family and place it on the window sill or on the ledge outside the door of every home, in order to guide the spirits until that had been their home. If it does not turn on any candle, evil spirits would percolate through into the house and disrupted the dreams of the inhabitants.

On the other hand, before sleep was usual tell stories about the deceased ancestors and even was reserved for them a chair to hear these stories. This continues to be practiced even in our days in some parts of Ireland and Scotland.

Other legends claim that the famous pumpkin with light in its interior, known in the anglo-saxon world as Jack O’Lantern, was in its beginnings a turnip. It is said that a blacksmith named Jack was in dealings with the devil and that at the end betrayed him. For this reason, when the blacksmith died and he was taken to hell for his bad life, the devil would not let him go inside. To illuminate the dark road that led to the exit, the devil gave the wretched blacksmith a hot stick with infernal fire. Jack placed the stick on the inside of a hollow turnips that were on the floor and built a makeshift lantern.

Traditionally the Celtic peoples were emptying turnips placing in their interior a burning ember, by way of lantern to guide the spirits of the loved ones to their homes. When the Irish immigrants arrived in the United States in 1840, they brought with them the traditions of Samhain, but replaced the turnip for the native pumpkin, a vegetable of greater size and therefore more suitable for developing the light bulb.

On the other hand, the Catholic Church, during the eighth century, had decided to replace the feast of Samhain, and its meaning, of the all Saints’ Day, aimed at all those saints who were without day own. The eve of all Saints’ Day, the day October 31, then went on to be known in Ireland, England and Scotland as “All Hallow’s Eve” (the eve of all saints), of whose contraction arose the name Halloween.


Despite the imposed religious connotations, the Celtic traditions and the pagan nature of this celebration have been keeping over the centuries. Another example is the ritual to disguise themselves of something related to the death, or with the evil or the dark, which, according to some versions, comes from the Celtic druids, who dressed as spirits and demons in rags and were painted to camouflage themselves among the ghosts and avoid being brought to the “other side”.

Currently, children in many parts of the world dressed up that night and go from door to door saying “trick or treat”, looking for its sweets. In Ireland, in particular, bonfires are lit and ask them wishes, organize games of Snap Apple (trying to bite an apple that is floating in a hole full of water or suspended from a string, without the help of the hands) and there are all kinds of rituals and games based on sightings on the future of love, health, or personal finance.

One of them is to eat the Barnbrack cake, a cake in which are placed wrapped in greaseproof paper, a waste of clothes, a coin and a ring. Once you have distributed the pieces of cake among the guests, if one finds the piece of cloth will have a bad year in its economy, and anyone who finds the coin will have a year full of prosperity. The one with the ring in his hand, if it is a single person, will find the love. If he has couple, his happiness during this year is guaranteed.

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