Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace


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Monday, October 31, 2022

Samhain, All Hallow's Eve, Halloween

Depiction of an ancient Celtic person dressed in costume before the bonfire.

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. I love the spookiness that surrounds this month and the historical meanings behind it. Halloween originated in ancient Celtic culture and was called Samhain. For the Celts, November 1 is when they celebrated their new year, and so the night before marked the end of the harvest and the beginning of winter--which is when death rates rose because of the cold temperatures and issues with food.

On Samhain night, it was said that ghosts were allowed to roam the earth as the boundary between the living world and that of the dead blurred. People would build great bonfires, where they would make sacrifices of their crops and livestock. They dressed up in costumes made from animal skins, heads, horns, etc.. to ward off the ghosts. By the 8th Century, a pope named November 1st All Saints Day, and the evening before became known as All Hallows Eve, eventually becoming Halloween.

So why do we carve pumpkins? They used to carve turnips into grotesque heads, and set them in their windows with candles burning as lanterns to ward off evil spirits.

A cast of a carved turnip from Ireland.

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