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What is the real meaning of Halloween?

Halloween is a special holiday for kids to dress up in costumes and run around town collecting candy from neighbors with friends. But it originated from an old Celtic, pagan holiday called Samhain (sow-in), also referred to as All Hallows Eve.

The name of this festival varied across the country: in Scotland, Ireland, and Wales it was known as Samhain; in England, Cornwall, and parts of Somerset it is Hallowe’en, and in France, it was called Samain.

real meaning of halloween

Many Americans are unaware that Halloween is an ancient festival steeped in traditions from the Celtic culture of early Britain and Ireland as well as Druid practices. In fact, modern-day Halloween celebrations are almost identical to traditional Celtic festivals of old.  The Celts lived thousands of years ago in what is now referred to as Ireland, England, and Scotland.

For thousands of years, the Celts had been invaded by different groups. The last invasion came from the Romans in A.D. 43 when they conquered Britain and drove many of the Celts north into Scotland, Wales and Cornwall (by that time most Irish were already gone).  By this time all remaining Celtic tribes had become Christians and the Roman Catholic Church made Christianity the official religion of the land.

Despite many changes, some of the Celtic customs remained and were incorporated into Halloween. The ancient Celts did not place much importance on death; therefore they did not have a mourning period or any type of ceremony for it.  Death was looked at as a transition from this life to the underworld and it was believed that on the night before November 1st (the day of Samhain), ghosts and spirits came out to play in preparation for their journey into the other world.

The Celts also felt that during this time the dead would communicate with people on Earth.  It became an accepted tradition to leave out food so that the dead could eat their fill before beginning their journey.

The Celts also believed that on this night all of the boundaries between both worlds were broken and the living and the dead could mingle together. It became a tradition for people to go from house to house while dressed up in costumes as a way to fool the spirits. The Celts wore costumes as a disguise against the other world’s ghosts and ghouls so they could avoid being recognized by them.

The festival was held each year on October 31st and was celebrated from sunset on October 31st until the next day’s sunrise. Remember, it was a time when fairies, witches and goblins were free to roam the earth. The celebration was a meeting place for the human souls and those of the dead who were believed to return during this time. It was a celebration where the boundaries between this world and the afterworld were broken and spirits could walk amongst humans.

  • In Ireland, bonfires were lit to honor those who had passed away during the past year.
  • In Scotland, they burned torches in memory of those who had died. These fires were intended to guide them through the darkness from which they had originated. Food was also left near the fires so that their ancestors would not go hungry during their return to the other world. One of the most common foods used for this purpose were apples which are known to have magical powers in many mythologies and folklore worldwide.
  • In some areas, such as Scotland and Wales, apples were hung from trees or posted near houses to ward off evil. Graves were also decorated with fruits and vegetables as offerings to the dead on Samhain.
pagan holiday

Is Halloween a pagan holiday?

Although Halloween is a celebration of the Celtic tradition, it was never a strictly pagan holiday. The Celts were very open to accepting new religions and this may be the reason why they assimilated easily with other cultures when their lands were invaded by others.

The Catholic church saw that people still wanted to keep some of their old customs so they changed the meaning of the festival. The Catholic Church came to associate October 31st with saints and holy martyrs as well as the season more generally.

On All Saints day, November 1st, the church celebrates those who have been named a saint or martyr by canonization or other recognized means. It was on this date that the Celtic festival of Samhain was moved to in order to make room for the Catholic celebration of All Saints.

The early church began to associate pagan holidays with Christian festivals but were careful not to have any pagan symbols or practices appear. The date of October 31st was still used as a day that marked the deaths and arrivals of spirits. In time, it became associated with the souls of children who were also believed to visit their families on this night.

These traditions have lived on in the celebration of Halloween and it is now celebrated by many people all across the world.

Do Muslims celebrate Halloween?

There is nothing in the Muslim faith that celebrates Halloween but it is not prohibited to do so. There are even Muslims who dress up for this holiday and enjoy its festivities. It is important to remember, however, that Halloween’s origins are pagan and polytheistic while Islam follows a monotheistic religion.

Halloween today is mainly celebrated in the western world. It will be up to each individual Muslim to decide how they will participate in this holiday after understanding its origins and history as well as their own beliefs about it.

celebrating in america

Why is Halloween celebrated in America?

Americans celebrate Halloween for a variety of reasons but most people consider it to be an entertaining holiday. It has become more than just a day where children dress up in scary costumes and go trick-or-treating for candy. The celebration is also for adults who attend costume parties and make elaborate meals and desserts for their children.

Many people decorate their houses with pumpkins and other seasonal ornaments in the weeks leading up to Halloween. It is also a time when some people volunteer at homeless shelters, and others choose to give out food or toys on this day.

Who brought Halloween to America?

In the United States, Halloween is mainly celebrated by children dressing up in costumes and going door to door for treats in an attempt to scare people. These pranks were meant to ward off spirits believed to be wandering on this day. It wasn’t until later in the 1800’s that it was transformed into a holiday, similar to what we experience today.

The first factor responsible for bringing Halloween to America is the new wave of immigration from many parts of Europe. This led to a mix of cultures and traditions in the United States. The second factor is popular literature and folklore that encouraged the spread of Halloween across America. Authors such as Charles Dickens or Washington Irving would write stories about ghosts and other fictional characters celebrating this holiday.

In time, the traditions brought by immigrants in Europe began to fade away but American literature and culture were strong enough to keep Halloween alive.

celebrating halloween

Is celebrating Halloween a sin?

The origins of Halloween are ancient and rooted in the pagan beliefs of Celtic people who lived hundreds of years ago in Europe. This is why many die-hard Christians believe that celebrating Halloween is a sin. But the holiday today is really more about candy and costumes.

Some even believe that this holiday is a satanic ritual since it involves different types of ghosts, ghouls, witches, black magic, and evil spirits that rise from their graves on October 31st. This type of thinking is based on the fact that October 31st was once a pagan festival for the dead, known as Samhain.

Halloween originated in ancient times before Christianity and even made an appearance in practices related to Celtic, Druidic, Germanic and other pre-Christian beliefs. Most of these practices involved the worshiping of different gods who were believed to be associated with the dead, elements of nature such as fire and plants. Even some symbols that are currently used in modern-day Halloween celebrations have origins in different pagan religions. As a result, one can understand why many Christians refrain from celebrating this holiday.

But…no, celebrating Halloween is not a sin. Despite some Christians believing Halloween is a time when the world can show off its immorality and wickedness, that simply is not the case.

Why do we give out candy on Halloween? 

According to, back in the time of ancient Celtic celebrations, it was considered good luck to give out food on Halloween. The Celts believed that people who were able to get their hands on some type of meat during this holiday would be able to survive the coming winter with ease. This is also the case with candy. Children who receive candy are said to receive good luck for the year.

In addition, some historians believe that giving out candy on Halloween is a way of continuing the practice of using food as an offering during worship rituals.

halloween costumes

What do we wear on Halloween?

Ever since ancient times when the pagan festival of Samhain was celebrated, costumes have been worn during this holiday. The Celts wore masks and animal skins in order to disguise themselves and to protect them from evil spirits that were believed to roam freely on this day. Other ancient civilizations also associated costumes with the arrival of deceased relatives who would visit homes during the Halloween season and would be welcomed by their surviving family members.

Another possibility is that the customs of wearing costumes on this holiday are associated with the belief that it was easier to communicate with spirits when attired in a costume because spirits could not recognize them as real humans.

Today, many people wear masks and costumes for the purpose of having fun. They may choose to dress up as their favorite character from a movie, book or even their own imagination. Some people dress up in order to feel like they have powers that ordinary humans do not possess.

Why do they call it trick or treat?

The origin of trick or treating comes from the characteristics of children. European traditions stated that children were responsible for playing tricks on people in order to collect candy.  The term “trick or treat” was first used in 1927. Young ones almost considered it like a party game – trying to see how many tricks they could do in one night. 

Today, it is believed that the practice of dressing up on Halloween and going house to house asking for candy involves a bit of both: treats for those who are nice to them and tricks for anyone who tries to act rudely towards them. Some people get upset at the idea of trick or treat because they think it encourages children to act rudely to others. However, the fact that they are just engaging in harmless fun after all is a good way for them to learn how to control their behavior and what it means to be polite towards others.

Jack O'Lantern

Where does the Jack O’Lantern come from?

The Jack O Lantern comes from the Irish legend of Stingy Jack and has dark origins.  In earlier times, it was known that Stingy Jack invited the Devil to have a drink with him one evening and promised that he would not put any water in his drink before tempting him into climbing a tree.

When the Devil was up there, Jack carved a cross on the tree’s trunk so that it could not escape. As a result, he was able to trap the Devil and turned him into a Jack O’ Lantern ever since. It is believed that these carved pumpkins were originally used to symbolize the appearance of Stingy Jack’s evil spirit or even the Devil himself because early Irish people used them as lanterns during festivals such as Halloween.

In the early 1800s, Irish immigrants brought their tradition to America and carved jack o’lanterns during Halloween. Today, these lanterns are used not only for decoration in this holiday but also as a symbol of other holidays such as All Hollow’s Eve.

Witches on Broomsticks

Witches on Broomsticks

In addition to Jack O’Lanterns, there is another symbol that has become associated with Halloween: witches riding on broomsticks. The legend of Halloween began in Celtic culture as a celebration to honor the dead. It was a night to try and communicate with spirits and most dressed up in costumes and prepared food for them.

Related: The Witches Pumpkin Template – Free Download

Were they trying to speak to malignant spirits or malevolent spirits? No one knows.

It is also believed that on this day, witches were more powerful than they were on any other day of the year and could be seen riding their broomsticks. They performed divination rituals, had healing powers, magical powers, took part in ancient rituals, and communicated with otherworldly spirits.

Americans adopt this tradition but changed it by dressing up in costumes or wearing masks so that spirits could not recognize them to play it safe. Now, it’s all just for fun. A lot has changed between the 16th century, the 18th century, the 20th century and the 21st century.