Halloween is a popular holiday that many of us celebrate today by telling scary stories, dressing up in costumes, trick or treating, carving pumpkins and much more! But where did this holiday originate from?  

The tradition of Halloween goes back over 2000 years to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to help scare off ghosts. The Celts believed that during Samhain the barrier between the living and the dead was weakened, making it easier for the souls of the dead to visit the living. Some people would use this time to communicate with departed relatives, often seeking advice or guidance.  

Samhain was the Celtic new year and it was celebrated on the 1st of November to commemorate the end of summer which represented life and the beginning of winter or the darker half of the year which would represent death. It was thought of as the most important of the four quarterly fire festivals which took place in the middle of the fall equinox and the winter solstice, a celebration of the change in seasons. 

Not all spirits were seen as good at the time, there were many who were believed to be evil and sent to cause havoc amongst the living world. To prevent this, many people believed ringing a bell would keep away evil spirts. There were also monsters associated with the original festival. One of these included the Celtic Púca, a shapeshifter who could bring good or bad luck. They were often found in rural areas where they could roam free causing mischief. Another monster was the Slaugh, a restless spirit often known for torturing the living. During Samhain, the Slaugh would use people to commit their evil acts, such as murdering animals, with people having no option but to do what the spirits wanted. 

To summarise, our Halloween experiences go beyond costumes, parties and telling spooky stories. They take us back to old pagan and early religious beliefs, fears of our own mortality and marking the transition between seasons.