The origin of Halloween is firmly rooted in the pagan beliefs of long ago. Halloween started out as Samhain, or the New Year, of the Celts in 5th century BC. Originally celebrated on October 31st, it was the third and last harvest for the year.
It was also the time of death for the pagan god, although this god was re-born at Yule. This was the day that summer officially ended. The sun, measured by ancient standing stones in Ireland and Britain, is at its lowest point on October 31st. It is believed that this is why the Celts chose this day to be their New Year.
The pagans celebrated in many ways on that day. The Druids had a ritual sacrifice to their deities on this day, during which they burned their victims in wicker cages. Before this ceremony, all of the fires in the village were extinguished. Once the ceremony was complete, everyone re lit their own fires from the sacrificial fire. This was believed to bring good things to this village.
The origin of Halloween included the belief that on October 31st the spirits of departed loved ones were able to cross through the veil that separates the living and the dead. It is on this day that the veil is thinnest, thus allowing the souls to cross over and walk among the living. Costumes and masks were initially worn to scare away these souls, and anything else that might have made its way through the veil.
Dinner tables were set with extra place settings to include any souls of loved ones who had recently passed to the other side. This was done to both honor and show love for them. Samhain was a day to remember these departed loved ones. It was also the day of celebrating the eternal cycle of reincarnation.
The true origin of Halloween is seen today as celebrated by modern pagans and Wiccans. They stick very closely to the customs of Halloween as they were celebrated in the days of old. Samhain, or Halloween, is also their New Year. They follow all of these pagan traditions and beliefs, right down to setting extra places at the dinner table for recently departed loved ones.
Halloween eventually evolved into something much different than the way it all began. Once the Catholic church became involved, the celebration of All Hallows Eve on October 31st became The Feast of All Saints celebrated on November 1st. The true origin of Halloween got lost somewhere along the way. It is gratifying to know that these traditions have not completely died, and are still celebrated by modern pagans.