Fact File - History of Halloween: Subject: Halloween *** Date of origin: c. 400BC *** Category: Special Events *** Country of Origin: Roman Empire *** The History of Halloween ***
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 Christmas.
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 (Halloween).
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 Halloween.
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 established.
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 ancient ritual.
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.