Like I’ve already told you, I hate Halloween.
I’ve hated Halloween since I was a toddler and Mom had to take her beloved “Halloweenies” to Grandma and Grandpa’s house because they terrified me so much that I couldn’t be in the same house with them.
I hate it all. I hate the pressure of coming up with a creative, funny or impressive costume. And, if successful, I hate the attention a creative, funny or impressive costume garners. Halloween’s a lose-lose situation for me!
But I digress. My point is: this year, as my boyfriend spends this October 4,000 miles away in Galway, Ireland, my interest drifts to the birth of that very holiday I’ve always had a dodgy relationship with.
Halloween is thought to have come from the ancient Celtic festival Samhain celebrated in Ireland and Scotland (and some other less important, concurrent Celtic festivals in Wales and Brittany that I won’t mention because I’m not dating a Welshman).
Samhain (pronounced “sowin”) was the celebration of the end of the harvest season, and the coming of the dark part of the year.
(“Samhain” comes from the Old Irish for “summer’s end.” How cute is that?)
This in-between time of year was thought to be when it was easier for fairies – as well as the souls of departed loved ones – to enter our world. “Fairy mounds” or ringforts, were the portals for the fairies, open at this particular time of year.
It’s said that people resorted to dressing up (or “guising”) to confuse spirits prone to mischief. However, a lot of historians claim this is bull and that the Halloween costume tradition actually comes from later Christian influence.
Whatever, man, I still don’t wanna dress up!
At this point, if you had any Catholic influence in your upbringing, you may be thinking, “Wtf, Annie? Halloween comes from All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. Every Catholic kid in America knows that.”
But here I must call bullshit! In reality, festivals like Halloween were celebrated by the Celts long before All Saints’ Day was the germ of an idea in the Pope’s mind. In fact, the Catholic All Saints’ Day wasn’t established until 609, and … get ready for this … it was in May.
Fact. In 835, the Pope switched the holiday (also called All Hallows’ Day) to that creepy time of year that Samhain was already runnin’ around scaring people. Catholic copycats. (I can say it, I was baptized.)
Then there’s the Catholic holiday All Souls’ Day, which was originally celebrated around Easter. But sometime during the Middle Ages it was mashed up with All Saints’ Day for one great Hallowmas. (Seriously, that’s a word. Google it.)
So that’s how Halloween came to be such a messed up mix of ancient pagan traditions and newer Christian ones.
It wasn’t even until the 19th century that Halloween celebrations appeared in the United States. Halloween traditions were brought over with the mass immigration of the Irish and Scottish.
So, thanks guys! Thanks for another holiday I can’t stand, but that I’m more than happy to begrudgingly bear for the sake of candy.
And, to all my Irish friends, I miss you!