Taking a look at the history of Halloween

Once a year, when the leaves begin to turn and the earth prepares for its winter slumber, the souls of the dead became restless

Once a year, when the leaves begin to turn and the earth prepares for its winter slumber, the souls of the dead became restless and wake from theirs. Ghosts appear, ghouls howl and the dead walk. . . It’s Halloween!

When I was a kid, I loved dressing up for Halloween and running around getting candy.

I usually donned the costume of one of my favourite superheroes like Batman or Spider-Man, as I never understood the appeal of dressing up as something horrific or grotesque and wanting to be scared out of my pants.

In fact, I still don’t understand a lot of the more macabre of Halloween traditions.

So, I thought I would share a little research about the origins of Halloween to help anyone who shares my reservations about the holiday understand it a bit better.

Today, Halloween is an excuse to dress up crazily and run around causing mischief or consuming way more sugar than is good for us.

Its roots however, are much different.

Halloween, both the word and much of the celebration, derive from ‘All Hallows Eve’ and relates to the Christian celebration of All Souls Day on the first of November.

As with many other Christian holidays such as Christmas and Easter, traditions from other celebrations were incorporated into Halloween to aid Christians in converting other religions, mainly pagan.

The ideas of the dead walking and supernatural activity around Halloween are thought to come from an ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain.

During Samhain, the barriers between the living and the dead, the natural and supernatural worlds were said to weaken and the souls of the departed were said to return home to their families for one night.

Fire was used in a number of different symbols in these early Halloween celebrations. In many countries, people would light candles to guide the souls of family members home.

Others would carve and light jack-o-lanterns to recognize wandering souls who had yet to find a place of rest in either heaven or hell.

While the ghosts of these departed were respected and welcomed by their families who set places for them at the table, they and other spirits were also feared, and bonfires would be lit to help protect the living from any malevolent spirits that were about. To some degree, these practices continue to this day.

As for the idea of dressing up and visiting houses door to door to obtain treats, it is believed to have originated in the 16th century.

People in costume would usually perform some kind of feat, such as reciting verses, in exchange for food, money or drink (a practice known as ‘guising’ because of the costume or ‘guises’).

As the practice grew older, guisers would instead threaten to perform mischief to the property if they were not welcomed into a home. This is where the phrase ‘trick-or-treat’ comes from, though today it is mostly a catch-phrase-esque way of requesting a treat during Halloween.

As for guising as ghosts, skeletons or other symbols associated with death, there are a number of theories to explain where this practice originated.

For the most part, these seem to stem directly from Christianity’s involvement with the festival.

One of the most prevalent theories is that dressing up as deathly symbols, or evil supernatural beings came about as a way for Christians to mock death and Satan as they had been conquered by the saviour, Jesus Christ.

There is also some evidence to suggest a connection between donning costumes of dead spirits on the night before the dead are celebrated through All Souls Day.



Just Posted

Member Terry Parsons’ custom built track vehicle.
Forestburg’s Area 53 Racetrack gears up for action-packed season

Site will also host a portion of the ‘Miles of Mayhem’ event in July

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw reported five additional deaths Wednesday due to COVID-19. (File photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Red Deer at 169 active cases of COVID-19

Province set to move into Stage 2 of reopening Thursday

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
2 sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says the child welfare system takes Indigenous children from their families

Airport ground crew offload a plane carrying just under 300,000 doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine which is developed by the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies at Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
1st batch of Johnson & Johnson vaccines won’t be released in Canada over quality concerns

The vaccines were quarantined in April before they were distributed to provinces

Grade 12 students at Wetaskiwin Composite High School took place in the annual water fight off school property on June 11, 2021. Shaela Dansereau/ Pipestone Flyer.
Graduating students in Wetaskiwin throw water fight after being told it could result in suspension

Students were told their participation could result in them being barred from graduation ceremonies.

The arrest south of Winnipeg occurred before Bernier was to arrive at a protest in the city. (Twitter/Maxime Bernier)
Maxime Bernier arrested following anti-rules rallies in Manitoba: RCMP

He’s been charged with exceeding public gathering limits and violating Manitoba’s requirement to self-isolate

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives for the G7 Summit, at the airport in Newquay, United Kingdom, Thursday, June 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Details on Canada’s vaccine sharing plan coming Sunday, up to 100 million doses

Canada’s high commissioner to the UK says details will come after the G7 summit

Conservative MP Tom Kmiec waves to the crowd during the Calgary Stampede parade in Calgary, Friday, July 8, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Newborn daughter’s death inspires MP’s bill on bereavement leave for parents

Conservative MP Tom Kmiec says a day or two off not enough for some grieving parents

Victoria’s 2020 Canada Day celebration will not happen this year. (Black Press Media file photo)
Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations backs cancelling Canada Day celebration

Statement made after Victoria cancels Canada Day event as a statement of reconciliation

United Nurses of Alberta is slamming Health Minister Tyler Shandro for suggesting staff vacations are causing emergency room problems. (Black Press Media files)
Physicians were suffering burnout and then the pandemic made it worse, UBC study finds

Burnout prevalent among 68 per cent of doctors – likely a reflection of issue globally, says researcher

Most Read