Fact File - History of Halloween: Subject: Halloween *** Date of
origin: c. 400BC *** Category: Special Events *** Country of Origin:
Roman Empire *** The History of
Fact 1 - History of Halloween: The history of Halloween is
a combination of old Pagan observations and traditions merged with new customs when
Christianity become the official religion of the Roman Empire in 314AD.
Fact 2 - History of Halloween: The Roman Empire was built on the
amalgamation of the favored traits of conquered peoples and by copying and
adapting the ideas and history of other cultures.
Fact 3 - History of Halloween: The adoption of Christianity as the new
religion was 'eased' into Roman culture by maintaining many of the old customs
and traditions of other religions.
Fact 4 - History of Halloween: The Winter Solstice and the ancient
Roman midwinter festivals called 'Saturnalia' and 'Solis Invictus' took
place in December and were later replaced by the Christian celebration of
Fact 5 - History of Halloween: A similar process occurred in relation to
Halloween. The Roman celebration of Cerelia, dedicated to the honour of Ceres,
the goddess of corn and harvest was observed in October as were the harvest
festivals celebrated by the Celts and the festival 'Samhain' meaning "summer’s
end" that marked the end of the harvest season on October 31 and the beginning
of winter or the "darker half" of the year.
Fact 6 - History of Halloween: Combining different beliefs and blending
religious practices is known as Syncretism. Roman Syncretism involved the
merging or assimilation of traditions to assert new beliefs with an underlying
unity and acceptance of old beliefs and customs in order to help to unite the
Roman Empire and maintain the power of Rome.
Fact 7 - History of Halloween: The Lemuralia was another ancient Roman
feast during which time the Romans performed rites to exorcise the malevolent
and fearful ghosts of the dead from their homes. This ancient custom was
Christianized in the feast of All Saints' Day, also known as All Hallows Day or
Hallowmas. The Roman Catholic Pope Gregory IV (827 - 844) extended the feast to
the entire Catholic Church and ordered it to be celebrated on November 1, the
day after All Hallows Eve (October 31).
Fact 8 - History of Halloween: All Hallows Eve (October 31), which would
become commonly known as Halloween, was the time when the Church traditionally
held a vigil to all of the saints on All Hallows Eve (Halloween) but the practice of
retaining traditional customs relating to supernatural creatures, magic, evil
spirits and wandering dead souls lived on in new guises.
Fact 9 - History of Halloween: The early customs and traditions on All
Hallows Eve (Halloween) included the practices of setting out offerings of food
and drink and wearing disguises to shield their identity from the evil spirits
of the dead who roamed the world on Halloween. Some people were fearful that
they would be recognized as non-sprits that they dressed as the dead so they
would remain safe
Fact 10 - History of Halloween: In an effort to supplant the old
traditions of All Hallows Eve (Halloween) the Church established November 2 as
All Souls Day, when the living prayed for the souls of all the dead. This
attempt failed to have a sustaining effect as the fear of death and evil spirits
was too deep rooted in the the human psyche and the custom of propitiating,
placating or winning favor with dead souls continued on All Hallows Eve
Fact 11 - History of Halloween: Allhallowtide, a "time to remember the
dead, including martyrs, saints and all faithful departed Christians" was
established by Pope Gregory III (731–741). Allhallowtide encompasses the Western
Christian observances of All Hallows Eve (Halloween), All Saints' Day and All
Souls' Day, and lasts for three days of October 31, November 1 and November 2.
Fact 12 - History of Halloween: The Ancient Roman festivals called the 'Feralia',
that celebrated the souls of the deceased and dead spirits, and the 'Parentalia'
that honored dead ancestors, both involved giving prayers and offerings. The
customs and traditions relating to the Feralia and the Parentalia were also too
deep rooted to disappear and these festivals subsequently became associated with
Fact 13 - History of Halloween: The connection between witches and
Halloween can also be traced to the Romans. The Romans abhorred all forms
of magic and witchcraft because it was associated with invocation of malevolent
spirits to work mischief or greater evils. Old Roman goddesses such as Circe,
Hecate and Medea were 'demoted' to demon goddesses, sorceresses and witches.
Fact 14 - History of Halloween: The subject of witches began to appear in
Roman classical literature. In the Roman epic poem 'Pharsalia', by the poet
Lucan, a witch called Erichtho, noted for her horrifying appearance, reanimates
a corpse. The famous Roman poet Horace (65 BC – 8 BC) wrote about a merciless
witch called Canidia in his 'Odes and Epodes'.
Fact 15 - History of Halloween: Witches began to be described as
cemetery-scouring old hags who could make poisonous brews and bring souls from
the realm of the dead and their connection with Halloween and its history became firmly
Fact 16 - History of Halloween: The history and origin of the Halloween tradition
of lighting bonfires dates back to the Celtic 'Samhain' festival when the
burning of fire and torches were used in rituals to cleanse souls from evil
powers. The traditional method of burning witches at the stake related to this
Fact 17 - History of Halloween: The history and origin of the Halloween "Trick or
Treat" tradition, in relation to the word 'treat', dates back to the Roman
custom of presenting offerings combined with later custom of "souling" in the
early 9th century. Peasants would knock at houses begging for a type of pastry
called "soul cake". In return for a "soul cake" a prayer would be given for the
dead relations of the household.
Fact 18 - History of Halloween: The history and origin of the Halloween "Trick or
Treat" custom in relation to the word 'trick' refers to the old Medieval
verb 'to trick' which meant "to dress or to adorn". The word trick was later
interpreted to mean a prank or a ruse.
Fact 19 - History of Halloween: The Scottish word 'Hallow-e'en' and its
English version of Halloween were popularized in the poem by Robert Burns (1759
- 1796) and referred to tricks at Halloween; "What fearfu' pranks ensue!", as
well as the supernatural associated with the night relating to "Bogies" meaning
evil or mischievous spirits, ghosts or witches.
Fact 20 - History of Halloween: Wicca, a religion influenced by
pre-Christian beliefs, celebrated various festivals called "Sabbats" that
celebrate the Earth's journey around the sun. Sabbats are closely associated
with witches and the most important Sabbat celebrates the Wiccan New Year's
which begins on October 31, Halloween night.
Fact 21 - History of Halloween: In modern times the history and origin of Halloween
have long since been forgotten but newer versions of the customs and traditions
of Halloween are still played out every year on October 31. If you are
interested in traditions and customs refer to the
History of Christmas and the Origin of Santa Claus.