The Irish origins
The feast of Halloween (31st October) is celebrated in a number of western countries (Ireland, the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States and Puerto Rico etc.) and with increasing popularity in Australia and New Zealand. Originating in Ireland, it has its source in a very old Celtic “festival” (for lack of a more appropriate word), Samain, This festival was Christianized under the two forms of All Saints' Day (1st November) and All Souls' Day (2nd November) in the 8th century. Then, the feast itself was called Halloween in the English speaking countries (from “All Hallows' eve”, All Saints' eve).
Samain was the most important of the four “festivals” of the (Irish) Celtic tradition. It marked the end of the hot season and the beginning of the cold one, the death of summer (the living world) and the birth of winter (the dead world). Samain corresponded to a privileged moment where the world of the living communicated with the world of the dead and Gods (“síd”, place of inner “Peace”). It was a matter of an “enclosed period”, beyond time, belonging neither to the preceding hot season nor to the cold following one. The “festival” reached its climax on 1st November 1 and generally began three days before and finished three days after. It was full of rites and festivities that had nothing gloomy about them, especially when the abundant harvests had driven away the spectre of starvation.
It is important to mention that Samain's date marked equally the end of the preceding year and the beginning of the following one. Indeed, the New Year opened with the cold season as the kingdom of the dead and the Gods had naturally the precedence over the world of the living. All the same, the day began with night. Therefore, Halloween festivities are strictly speaking starting on the evening preceding 1st November rather than during 31st October. By going back to the real Celtic tradition sources, we will see how various customs of the feast of Halloween make sense.
Of course, the supernatural and unreal atmosphere of the pre Christian “festival” have remained, but Gods and Goddesses from the Other World were replaced by phantasmagorical creatures and the superiority of the divine world over the human world has been totally passed over in silence. The magic has supplanted the worship. Finally, despite its name, Halloween became a “pagan” feast where the commercial empire widely eclipsed the universe of the Gods.
1 back Let us note that the “festival” does not systematically fall on 1st November. Determined by a lunar-solar calendar, Samain could not be a fixed “festival”. Nevertheless, a shifting of the date did not modify the division of the Celtic year into two main seasons, which is the only capital point for the continuation.