Welcome to 123 Halloween.Com
The Celtic festival of Samhain is probably the source of the present-day Halloween celebration. The Celts lived more than 2,000 years ago in Britain, Ireland, and northern France. Their new year began on November 1. A festival that began the previous evening honored Samhain, the Celtic lord of death. The celebration marked the beginning of the season of cold, darkness, and decay and was associated with human death. The Celts believed that Samhain allowed the souls of the dead to return to their earthly homes for this evening.
On the evening of the festival, the Druids, who were the priests and teachers of the Celts, ordered the people to put out their hearth fires. The Druids built a huge new year's bonfire of oak branches, which they considered sacred. They burned animals, crops, and possibly even human beings as sacrifices. Then each family relit its hearth fire from the new year's fire. During the celebration, people sometimes wore costumes made of animal heads and skins. They told fortunes about the coming year by examining the remains of the animals that had been sacrificed.
Portions of the Celtic holiday of the dead eventually passed into Christian culture after the Romans conquered the Celts and tried to bring the Celts into the "Christian fold." It eventually became apparent to the church leaders that the Celts, in spite of their conformation to some aspects of Christian culture, were stubbornly sticking with elements of their old religion.
So, in the seventh century AD, the church moved its All Saints' Day, a holiday for honoring early Christian martyrs, from a day in May to November 1, thus associating it with the old Druid death rituals of October 31. By the tenth century A.D., the Catholic Church had modified it to All Souls' Day to honor all the past Saints who couldn't be accommodated in the calendar.
Halloween came to America with early Irish and Scottish immigrants. By then, though, it had a become just a fun celebration: a night of making jack o' lanterns, playing trick or treats, and telling ghost stories around a bonfire. It was already changing into the holiday for children with which we in the 20th century are so familiar.