As we celebrate this ancient European tradition and Holiday with family, SJW’s spend their time policing costumes on college campuses… railing on about the evils of “Cultural Appropriation.”
Well let’s take a look at all of this cultural appropriation, and see where its roots originate, and who’s really appropriating who’s culture shall we?
Because from the looks of it… it’s European Americans who are having their folklore and ancient cultural traditions mimicked and “borrowed” by every other non-European group that happens to live here. So called… “Halloween” is just one of them.
The History of Samhain (Halloween)
31st October is the night when the streets are filled with pumpkins, ghouls and ghosts for Halloween. Shirts are stained in fake blood and extortion becomes socially and legally acceptable for a few hours in the form of a trick or treat. The pageantry and costumes of Halloween seem strikingly modern, often referencing horror movies; much of how the occasion is celebrated and decorated seems informed by contemporary consumerism. However, many of Halloween’s traditions started forming hundreds, even thousands of years ago.
As is so often the case with modern holidays and celebrations, the origins of Halloween can be found in European pagan festivals marking changing seasons, reflecting ancient cultures whose lives were deeply shaped by the environment. Samhain (pronounced sah-win or sow-in) was a Celtic festival held around the 1st of November.
The Celts were a people who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1st. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred.
On the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter. The name “Samhain” means ‘summer’s end’ in Gaelic and although records are limited, it seems to have been a communal meeting where resources were gathered for the dark, cold winter months, and animals were brought in from pasture. At the very least, Samhain is evidence of the long precedent for festivities to mark the coming of winter, even if it was far removed from our modern version of Halloween.
To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other’s fortunes. When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.
By 43 A.D., the Roman Empire had conquered the majority of Celtic territory. In the course of the four hundred years that they ruled the Celtic lands, two October festivals of Roman origin were combined with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain.
The first, Feralia, was a date late in the month where the Romans commemorated their dead; reflecting again how ancient cultures associated the cold, dark winter with death. The other was a day to celebrate the Roman goddess of fruit and trees, Pomona. With this festival, we can see hints of one of the most popular Halloween traditions. Pomona’s symbol was an apple, perhaps explaining the origins of apple bobbing.
As the Roman Empire spread further into the Celtic lands, conquering most of the territory by 43 CE, Samhain started to be combined with Feralia and Pomona. Separate pagan traditions to mark the onset of winter crossed over; different rituals and traditions fusing and evolving. It was a pattern which would be repeated again and again as the Halloween we know today started to form.
In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated the 1st of November as ‘All Saints’ Day”, an occasion to commemorate all saints and martyrs. As happened with both Christmas and Easter, certain elements of pagan festivals were placed into the Christian calendar, continuing the traditions of acknowledging the changing seasons. The evening before became known as All Hallows’ Eve, and later Halloween.
To mark the occasion, massive bonfires were lit to light the cold evening. Parades were held on the streets and revelers started to dress up as dead saints and martyrs. As the ninth century wore on, and All Saints Day and All Hallows Eve became established as regular events on the calendar, the foundations were laid for modern Halloween.
One of the most common Halloween rituals is trick or treating, which has a somewhat vague origin. One theory is that it originates from the medieval practice of “souling”, where the poor would go door to door on All Saints’ Day, asking for food in exchange for prayers for the dead. Another theory is that it has its origins in “mumming”, a medieval European folk tradition where bands of revelers took to the streets in simple, homemade costumes, acting out stories and singing songs. Associated with Christmas until the nineteenth century, “mumming” undoubtedly bears some resemblance to modern Halloween traditions.
Through the centuries celebrations to mark the end of winter have developed, sometimes influencing each other, other times in parallel. The evolution of Halloween cannot be clearly traced. Historians debate just how influential Samhain really was, while other traditions seem to have originated in a number of different places separately from each other. What is clear is that our modern interpretation of Halloween is a potion concocted from a plethora of Pagan and Christian influences. A modern holiday with a long, colorful, rich European history.