Halloween is widely known to have originated in Celtic Ireland in particular from the festivities during Samhain. The festival of Samhain marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter and was believed to be a time when the boundary between the living and the dead was blurred, allowing spirits to roam the earth. During Samhain, the Celts would light bonfires and wear costumes made of animal heads and skins to ward off evil spirits. They believed that the presence of spirits made it easier for Druids to make predictions about the future and performed rituals and offerings to appease the spirits or as we now call it, trick-or-treating.
As Christianity spread throughout Ireland, the church incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain into its own celebrations. In the 8th century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1st as All Saints’ Day, a day to honour all saints and martyrs. The evening before, October 31st, became known as All Hallows’ Eve, eventually evolving into Halloween. Over time, Halloween became the community-centred holiday we all know and love, unless you are a Samhainophobic of course. Yes, believe it or not, the fear of Halloween or any association with it is called Samhainophobia.
Samhain was a time when the community would come together to celebrate and honour their ancestors. Older adults played a central role as they would often lead the community in rituals, ceremonies and storytelling. They would share myths, legends, and tales of the past, passing down cultural knowledge and preserving the community’s history. Older persons would also provided guidance and advice to younger generations during Samhain. They would offer wisdom and insights on various aspects of life, including agriculture, survival, the cycle of life and death and even spiritual matters.
Older adults held a respected and central role in the celebrations of Samhain with their presence and involvement helping to foster a sense of community, togetherness and multigenerational solidarity. Once again, it begs the question of where respect for the older generation got lost along the way. Older adults have somehow transitioned from being seen as an integral part of the community to being an inconvenience. Let’s try to revisit these Samhain traditions this Halloween and connect with our community as best we can. Let’s do as the Celts did and show appreciation to our elders while celebrating this annual tradition.
We wish you all a very happy Halloween!