Many people celebrate Halloween today. Tricks. Treats. Costumes and parties abound. But what they may not realize is that they are re-enacting ancient, seasonal celebration.
Today is the Celtic New Year's Eve. Tomorrow is New Year's Day.
The Celts, an ancient civilization that lived across Europe with groups living in what we now call Germany, Spain, France and the British Isles. This was a huge culture that shaped centuries of European customs which were then wiped away or re-shaped by the overthrow of Rome and Catholicism. I won't go into the hows, whys and horrors of the cultural genocide brought on by the Catholic church. Let's just say that in order to take over, the Catholic priests found many ways to take what were considered 'pagan' rituals and re-invent them as 'religious' holidays. Halloween, Christmas and Easter are just a few examples.
Samhain, pronounced Sow-when, was the Celtic festival marking the end of the harvest with a celebration of bounty and abundance. As the end of the growing year, it also marked a time to remember those who died and honor their lives and spirits.
Children went door to door giving and receiving food. Candles and fires brought light to the darker days and served to remember and honor the dead. The Day of the Dead celebration is another outgrowth of Samhain, as well.
I love Halloween. And I love seeing how this holiday still honors the ancient intentions of Samhain. Happy New Year's Eve!