What was halloween originally called? The original name for Halloween used to be called Samhain.
What is Samhain?
Halloween on October 31st, or All Hallow’s Eve, used to be known as Samhain, meaning ‘summer’s end’. Some say it was the point the Celts used to mark the end of a year and the start of a new one. Today, the ancient meanings of Halloween have largely been lost as it has become a commercial event.
CELTIC FESTIVAL OF SAMHAIN
The ancient festival of Samhain can be pronounced as SAH-win or SHAH-vin. According to Christan Hummel in The Lost Meaning of Halloween, during this special time, the Celts believed that the normal laws of space and time no longer applied. The veil between worlds was thin, and this meant that members of the family who were now dead could return to celebrate with their loved ones.
Samhain occurs at the opposite point to Beltane, the celebration of spring, on the Celtic calendar, which can be pictured as a wheel. Key to the meaning of Samhain is the concept of the in-between: a time of neither summer nor winter, but a meeting place between. An ideal time for magic because of the blurring of boundaries between Earth and Otherworld.
OFFERINGS TO THE ANCESTORS ON SAMHAIN
According to Rosemary Roberts in Celtic Spirituality: Simple Blessings, Wisdom, and Guidance for Daily Living, during Samhain people shared their good fortune by making offerings of the harvest’s fruit to their ancestors. This custom continues today in Ireland where food is left for the family spirits at Halloween time.
During Samhain, Roberts explains, families would put out all domestic fires and ceremonially rekindle them from the king’s grand fire. These new home fires would then be maintained throughout the following year.
MEANINGS OF THE JACK-O-LANTERN
The word ‘Jack-o-Lantern‘, according to Christan Hummel, came about when the ancient Irish carved out turnips and placed candles inside, to light the way for ‘Jack’, a trickster spirit who was trapped between the two worlds of the dead and the living.
SAMHAIN BECOMES ALL SAINTS DAY
When the Church came into power, it could not sanction a festival for the dead, but turned Samhain into All Saints Day on November 1st and All Souls Day on November 2nd, in honour of the blessed dead. This festival came into being during the 17th Century.
Honouring Samhain, the original name of Halloween, this year is a good way to reconnect with and celebrate the natural cycles of life, which are often lost in our fast-paced modern lives. One way to do this is by lighting candles and meditating on one’s ancestors and what they have passed on.