Honoring the memory of those who no longer exist on this earthly plane, that is the basis on which the celebration of Halloween was created. Different myths, legends, and customs are part of these traditions, cultures, and idiosyncrasies. Halloween is part of those traditions that began in Europe and as time went by it expanded to the United States and other countries in the Americas.
A little over 2,000 years ago, on the night of Samhain, the Celts turned off their candles and hoped that death would not knock on their doors. The Celtic culture encompassed the British, Scandinavian and Western European landmasses and this tradition spread throughout all these territories, becoming one of the most popular where, despite some distortion, it has remained very traditional.
Social evolution has modified it from its origin with the Druids, Celtic pagan priests, celebrated the night of the Samhain in which the spirits returned to walk the earth, seeking to possess the living. That is why no fire was lit, the houses remained cold and dark, their owners dressed in funerals to avoid the attention of the dead and in this way, it was believed that on the night of the dead they could continue to live if they went unnoticed. In this way, the Celts also celebrated the end of summer and the end of harvests and with it, the beginning of a new year.
All Hallows Eve is the Anglo-Saxon name (Germanic peoples that invaded the south and east of Great Britain) that over time we’re given in to this tradition in the eve of All Saints Day. Through time and space, its name would be distorted creating the word “Halloween”, a name that has been exported to the whole world although it does not have a translation in some countries in which it is also celebrated.
Every October 31 was a date dedicated to two gods: Morrigan (goddess of war) and Dagda (a secondary deity related to abundance). This celebration brings together the traditions of various peoples on a single date due to the mixture of cultural features despite their dark origins. When conquering part of the British Isles, the Romans acquired part of the Celtic celebrations and incorporated in their calendar the particular celebration towards the end of the calendar.
As is recognized, the church is the institution that best perpetuates the cultural baggage of Roman civilization, through tools such as Latin and writing. After the German invasions and the fall of Rome, the church was the only remnant of the ancient Roman and Greek writings, which were often adapted to the Catholic faith. In the seventh century AD, Pope Boniface IV incorporated the Ancient Celtic tradition, which was on the Roman calendar and practiced in the Breton lands, these set of Christian celebrations on the eve of All Saints’ Day, in an attempt to give a sacred framework to the entrenched pagan tradition.
In 1845, due to what would later be called the Great Irish Famine, millions of Irish emigrated to other countries in search of work, being the United States of America the main destiny of these exiles, bringing their traditions, and among them “All Hallows Eve” that became “Halloween”.
Origin of the pumpkin tradition
One of today’s most popular Halloween traditions is to carve a pumpkin into a lantern called Jack-o-lantern that emerged from Irish folklore of the eighteenth century. According to legend, Jack was a drinker, player and lazy man who spent his days lying under an oak. On one occasion Satan visits him to take him to hell, Jack challenged him to climb the oak and when the devil was at the top of the tree, he stalked a cross on the trunk to prevent him from going down, the cunning Jack made a deal with the devil where he would let him go down if he promised never to invite him again, however, when Jack died he could not enter heaven for all his sins and neither into hell for having deceived the devil. To compensate for this, Satan handed him charcoal to light his way on the icy night where he would have to roam until the day of the final judgment.
The charcoal was placed inside a hollowed bucket that was a turnip, and that had to burn forever like a lantern, that’s why the Irish used turnips to make their “Jack lanterns”, but when the Irish arrived in the United States they noticed that pumpkins were more abundant than turnips, hence the tradition of carving pumpkins for Halloween night and transforming them into lanterns with a candle inside, where the aim of this tradition was not to invoke spirits but rather to keep them away from people and houses.