Samhain, El Día de Los Muertos, All Saints' Eve. Call it what you
like, it's still the last day of October and always a good excuse
for a party - but why?
(pronounced 'sow-in') was the end of the Celtic year, and like all
good new-years-eves a good excuse for a party and get-together.
However this was more than just a good time together. It was of
major importance to the Celts.
marked the end of summer and the start of the cold, dark winter
and was a day when the druidic priests of the Celts belived that
the dead could come back to the earth and cause trouble for the
counter this, the druids built large, sacred bonfires to chase away
the dead and for the people to sacrifice possessions and food to
the Celtic gods.
was also believed that if you lit a new fire in your house, from
the embers of the sacred bonfire, that no evil could enter your
house, whilst the fire stayed lit.
the Romans invaded the British Isles they added their own customs
and traditions to those of the Celts. Two of the most notable were
the celebration of Feralia - the Roman comemoration of the dead
and the day of honour for Pomona, goddess of fruit and trees.
was held on a day in late October or early November, so tied in
with the existing Samhain festivities and beliefs. Whilst Pomona
celembrated the harvest with her fruit - the apple. A possible reason
Christianity took hold of the Celtic world, the church took many
of the existing pagan festivals and re-invented them as Christian
holidays and celebrations.
the 7th Century, Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Pantheon in Rome
to the Virgin Mary on 13 May. This holiday was then changed to 1
November by Pope Gregory III and the Pantheon rededicated to the
honour of 'All Saints in the Vatican Basilica', as an attempt to
remove the Samhain festivals from the Celtic calender.
in the 11th Century, 2 November was made 'All
Souls' Day' - a day of honouring the dead. Celebrated
in the same manner as Samhain, with bonfires, parades, costumes
whole celebration now lasted three days, from 31 October to 2 November
and was known as Hallowmas.
by Adam Flett and Mark Robertson