The spooky season is upon us and Halloween is just around the corner, come learn all about the history and origins of this spooky holiday! Get into the spirt of Halloween by reading this fun article about the origins of Halloween. This Halloween history lesson is great whether you’re at home or in the classroom!
Kids of all ages will enjoy learning about Halloween and its interesting, complex, and spooky origins! In addition to some fun reading, there is also a video and a link to a fun Halloween themed craft towards the end of this article!
The Origins of Halloween
Long before Halloween, there was a holiday called Samhain, pronounced “sah-win” or “sow-in.” The holiday was celebrated the by the Celtic people in modern day Ireland, Scotland, England, and some parts of north France. Samhain was celebrated as the end of summer and the beginning of the harvest season. The holiday was also celebrated as the beginning of the darker, colder, and spookier time of year when all sorts of spirits and ghosts would come out.
The Celts believed that on October 31st, the night before the new season, the veil between the living and spirt worlds would get thinner. They believed that this allowed for spirits to easily cross into our world. Following October 31st on November 2nd, the Celts celebrated the harvest and honored the souls of those who had passed away.
To celebrate Samhaim the Celtic druids would light large bonfires, everyone would dress in costumes and throw items onto the bonfire. After the fire was finished, the Celts would take home a piece of wood from it and burn it on their hearths to help bring good luck in the coming winter.
All Hallows Eve and All Saints day
On May 13, 609 AD, Pope Boniface IV made a national holiday called All Martyrs Day. Several years later, Pope Gregory III expanded the holiday to include both saints and martyrs. A feast was held by the church to honor the saints and martyrs on this day.
Several hundred years later in 1000 AD, Christianity spread into Celtic lands in modern day Britain, Ireland, and Scotland. Prior to Christianity, the Celts had celebrated Samhain on October 31st, and All Hallows Eve on November 2nd. In an attempt to help blend the Christian and Celtic customs, All Saints Day was shifted to November 2nd and renamed “All Souls Day.” In addition to honoring the saints and martyrs, the holiday honored all who had passed away similar to Samhain. Similarly to Samhain, big bonfires were lit and people dressed up in costumes of saints and angels.
The holiday was also celebrated as “All-Hallows” or “All Hallows Eve,” which would eventually morph into what we know as Halloween!
The story of Stingy Jack is an Irish folk tale about a man, named Stingy Jack, who decides to make a few deals with the Devil. After tricking and trapping the Devil twice, Stingy Jack makes the devil promise that he will not take Stingy Jack’s soul when he passes away. The Devil agreed as he did not want to be tricked by Stingy Jack again.
When Stingy Jack passed away, neither the Devil nor Heaven wanted his soul because of his stinginess. Stingy Jack’s soul was left to roam the Earth for the rest of eternity with nothing but a still burning coal put inside a small vegitable to light his way.
Want to read more about Stingy Jack and the History of the Jack o Lantern? Check out this fun Jack o Lantern themed craft!
History of Halloween Video
Here is a fun and educational video by the World History Encyclopedia about the origins and history of Halloween! It covers some topics that are not covered in this article, so watch to learn more cool facts about Halloween! Watch with a parent, as some content might be scary or upsetting to children.
Make your own Jack o Lantern craft
Want to get into the Halloween spirit? Check out this fun Jack o Lantern themed craft!
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A&E Television Networks. (n.d.). Halloween: Origins, meaning & traditions. History.com. https://www.history.com/topics/halloween/history-of-halloween
Bachelor, Blane. 2021. “The History of American Jack-o’-Lanterns.” Travel. National Geographic. May 3. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/article/the-twisted-transatlantic-tale-of-american-jack-o-lanterns.
“How Jack O’Lanterns Originated in Irish Myth.” 2023. History.Com. A&E Television Networks. Accessed August 30. https://www.history.com/news/history-of-the-jack-o-lantern-irish-origins.
Samhain (samain) – the Celtic roots of Halloween. (n.d.). https://www.newgrange.com/samhain.htm
“Visit.” 2023. Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Accessed August 30. https://carnegiemnh.org/the-jack-o-lanterns-origins/.