HALLOWEEN: ITS ORIGINS AND CELEBRATION
The celebration of Halloween has dual origins. The first is in a pre-Christian Celtic feast associated with the Celtic New Year. The second is in the Christian celebration of All Saints Day (Nov. 1st) and All Souls Day (Nov. 2). In the British Isles November 1st is called All Hallows, thus the evening before is All Hallows Eve.
The Celtic Feast
The ancient Celtic peoples who inhabited England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Brittany (NW France) celebrated their New Year’s Day on what would be November 1st on our calendar. Prior to their conversion to Catholicism these peoples practiced a pagan religion controlled by a priest class known as Druids. The Druids are most famous for the stone monument of Stonehenge and other astronomical calendars that remain in their former domains.
The Christian Feasts of All Saints and All Souls
During the first three centuries of Christianity the Church frequently had to operate “underground” due to the persecutions of the Roman state against her. During these periods there were many martyrs who died for their faith in Jesus Christ. The most renowned of these were honored locally by the preservation of the relics (if available) and by the celebration of the anniversary of their death, as a feast in honor of their birth into eternal life. As time passed, neighboring dioceses would honor each others martyrs and even exchange relics for veneration, the way the first century Christians kept the clothes and handkerchiefs touched by St. Paul (Acts 19:12).
Ever wander about how the Halloween holiday began? Fr. Greg Friedman, O.F.M., explains the Christian background to this popular secular observance.