The Samhain was directly related to the end of the harvest season, and its biggest symbol was the bonfire. In the Celtic world, especially in the Anglo-Saxon world, the celebration, language and meaning of the October festival changed according to the region.
Samhain is considered primarily Scottish and Irish. In Wales, Calan Geaf was celebrated. Some theories say that All Saints’ Day (during the Roman Empire, celebrated on May 13) passed to November 1 in an attempt to christianize Samhain.
The new date brought together the christian celebration of saints and the celebration of Samhain: a pagan day and a christian day. The word Halloween comes exactly from “All Hallow’s Eve”, the eve of All Saints.
Halloween as we know it today
Halloween, as we know it today, started between 1500 and 1800. The fires remained popular, especially to avoid the Black Death and the witches (or to kill those accused of witchcraft).
Also come the most mystical components of this party: conjectures and spells. The food was also very important. It was also during this period that the custom of involving children, going from house to house, saying poems and prayers for the deceased, in exchange for cakes, honey and other delicacies.
The Samhain, or Halloween, arrived in America in 1845, during the great Irish emigration. Halloween traditions began to combine English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh traditions with American harvest rituals.
The apples used by the British to predict the future served for cider. Corn was an important agricultural culture, it entered the symbolism characteristic of American Halloween. Therefore, it is common to see scarecrows today as decoration on Halloween.
It was also in the United States where the pumpkin became a symbol of this holiday. A legend about a blacksmith named Jack who managed to outwit the devil and wander as a living dead led to the luminous pumpkins that became the main symbol of American Halloween.
The trick or treat proved to be an evolution of the British tradition, but the question of jokes or other games arose only after Orson Wells’ radio broadcast of “War of the Worlds” in which it was said that the Martians were invading the earth. Despite the scare, it was just a Halloween prank.
The most commercial part of Halloween is popular all over the world, making it an excuse for theme parties and various costumes. Halloween continues to create its own mythology.
There is a fascination for the freedom that everyone feels on this day, the fears and fantasies explored, the union of religion with paganism, death with life, mysticism with divination, rituals and magic.