The Origins & History of Halloween Part 2: The Roman Empire & Rise of Christianity

Welcome back! Let’s dive right back in:

At this point the Celts had been celebrating Samhain for centuries, but by early A.D., the Roman Empire conquered most of the Celtic land. This was where cultures and celebrations started to slowly mix. The Roman’s holiday for honoring the dead known as Feralia as well as their celebration of the Goddess Pomona started to blend in with Samhain. Rituals started to merge and new traditions were formed. For example, as part of the honoring of Pomona, Romans offered the goddess apples, which is how caramel apples and bobbing for apples slowly came to be on Halloween (History).

Photo by Natasa Dav on

It wasn’t until the rise and spread of Christianity, that things started to fully form for this spooky day of the year. At first, Pope Boniface, Pope during the 5th century, did not like the idea of Samhain being a ‘pagan’ celebration and attempted to eradicate it. He did this by creating a day in May dedicated to the celebration of Christian Martyrs, encouraging those who celebrated Samhain in October to turn their festivities towards a May Christian holiday instead. This of course did not work out very well and did little to stop the October traditions (ibid).

As time went on it was clear that Samhain was still being celebrated. So by 1000 A.D., the church decided to try a new tactic to cover up the widely celebrated non-Christian holiday. This was when they relocated the celebration of Martyrs from May to November 2nd. They also changed the name to celebrate not only Martyrs, but Saints as well, thus All Saints Day was established. In order to keep peace with Celtic beliefs, the same type of celebration was still held. Bonfires roared, costumes were worn, and the honoring of those passed on still occurred. But, in the mind of the Christian Church, they were able to overlay a pagan holiday with a Christian one (ibid).

Photo by Ryan Miguel Capili on

So now we are slowly start to see how things are forming more and more. But one more aspect of this Christian contribution that had a major influence on today’s holiday? All Saints Day in old English was Alholowmesse. This term started to evolve. Alholowmesse became All-hallows. Then the evening before was considered All-Hallows Eve and BOOM Halloween became the term! (ibid)

But how exactly did these traditions make their way the North America? And how did the idea of handing candy out make any sense? Tune back in tomorrow to find out!

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