Sunday, October 10

The History Behind Halloween Traditions - Unit Study

Halloween began with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people lit bonfires and wore costumes to ward off spirits. Over time, it has evolved into a day of activities like trick-or-treating, carving jack-o-lanterns, festive gatherings, donning costumes and eating treats....but how did we get here?

Ancient Origins

The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated the ancient festival of Samhain on November 1.  This day marked the end of summer harvest and the beginning of the cold winter, a time of year that was associated with death.  Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. 

On the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth.  On this night, they built huge sacred bonfires and gathered to offer crops and animals to sacrifices to the Celtic gods. During the celebration, they wore costumes, usually animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other’s fortunes.

Mixing with the Past

In 609 A.D., Pope Boniface IV established the Catholic feast of All Martyrs Day in the Western church. Pope Gregory III later expanded the festival to include all saints as well as all martyrs, and moved the observance from May to November.  Within a few centuries, the influence of Christianity had spread northward, where it blended with Celtic rites. 

In 1000 A.D., the church made November 2 All Souls’ Day, a day to honor the dead.  This day was celebrated like Samhain, with bonfires, parades, and costumes of saints and sinners.  It was also called All-Hallowmas (derived from the Middle English term for All Saints' Day).  The night before it came to be known as All-Hallows Eve....eventually turning into Halloween.

Halloween in America

Originally, Halloween was not celebrated because the Protestant colonies of New England were very strict about their beliefs.  However, as different customs and beliefs came with new immigrants, an Americanized version of Halloween was created.  This celebration included telling ghost stories, making mischief, dressing in costumes, and holding autumn parties.

You may notice that Samhain sounds similar to Dia de Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, celebrated on November 1st in Mexico.  On this night, they also believe that the spirit world is able to cross into the land of the living.  Unlike Samhain, however, this is not a holiday to be feared, but one where family and friends pray for and remember family members who have passed.

Our spine reads for this unit are:

Access the entire unit in the History Behind Our Holidays unit study bundle!

Includes eight American holidays. Each unit has introductory text, which will give the student the holiday’s history and customs.

  •  Introduction
  •  Valentine’s Day
  •  St. Patrick’s Day
  •  Easter
  •  Mother’s Day
  •  Father’s Day
  •  Halloween
  •  Thanksgiving
  •  Christmas

In addition to text, there are featured videos, which augment the background information and help make the topic more accessible for more visual students. You will also find a short list of reading books and fun hands-on activities!

Product Samples:   Valentine's Day & Christmas Traditions

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.