Halloween has ancient traditions

The more things change the more they stay the same

As the children prepare for trick or treat dressed in their Halloween costumes they are participating in a centuries old custom; one that dates back thousands of years to ancient Celtic Ireland.

At that time November 1 was the beginning of the new year. It marked the end of summer and the growing season and the beginning of the long, dead, winter. On the night of Oct. 31, it was thought that the line between the living and the dead was very thin and the spirits would come down to roam the earth. To ward off evil spirits and not to be confused for a wandering spirit the people wore costumes and gathered at a huge bonfire attended to by the Druid priests. After the celebration the people went home and took a piece of the sacred bonfire with them to relight their hearth fires hoping it would protect them from misfortunes during the coming winter.

How Halloween got its name

When Christianity came to Ireland in the 800’s Pope Boniface IV replaced the pagan celebration to honor the dead with the Christian custom of making November 1 a day to honor the martyrs and saints known as All Saints Day. The day became known as All-hallowmas (from the Middle English Alholowmesse which means All Saints Day). The day before (Oct. 31) therefore was known as All-hallows Eve which then evolved into Halloween.

Why do we Trick-or-Treat?

It is thought the tradition of trick-or-treating comes from the tradition of parades in England to celebrate All Souls (or Saints) Day. During the festivities the poor people would go to houses where they were given “soul cakes” in return for their prayers for the families’ deceased. This tradition was known as “going a-souling”. Later the children took up this tradition where they were given ale, food, and money as they visited the houses.

Ancient traditions still observed

It is funny that no matter how much time goes by and the world changes we still hold on to ancient customs and practices. Going back even farther in time the Romans also celebrated the dead and the harvest at this time. Today we observe the end of October with visits to haunted houses, scary and dead-themed movies, visits to farms for apple picking and corn mazes, bonfires, community parties, and children going from house to house  dressed in costumes begging for treats.

We are still observing the acknowledgement of life and death, the fears accompanied with it, and turning to a greater source for guidance and protection. Children still wander the night in costume looking for treats, churches still pray for the dead on All Saints Day, and people still like to gather around a bonfire; however, today the only spirits we are likely to encounter are the ones that come from a bottle—or not. What was that bump I just heard in the night? After all, it is Halloween.




Rust Craft, circa 1950

Image via Wikipedia

Dear Friends:

Here is my Christmas card to you. Thank you for your support and comments. Wishing all of you a Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year.


 “Oh, little town of Bethlehem…

Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by,

Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light.”

A pretty story I’m told, or is it just another legend of old?


Phones are ringing, computers beeping, traffic whizzing by.

Are you running with me Jesus? I shout in a rage as I prepare to fly.

Twelve more shopping days till Christmas, appointments to keep in line;

Are you running with me Jesus? Please give me a sign.


Meetings to attend, broken promises to mend;

I think I’m doing fine.

Are you running with me Jesus? If so, where is my sign?


Driving home late, I stop to admire heaven’s starry gate.

The air is brisk; a shiver runs down my spine.

What is this I see glowing in the east?

It grows brighter with each passing second.

Could it be to me it beckons?

What’s this ringing in my ears?

Is it the singing of angels through the years?


The light—it’s so intense!

It touches my very soul and I sense—

Yes, it’s true!

He lives, he lives!

Here is my sign.

Are you running with me Jesus?

Yes, you are for I see it in the stars—

The star of Bethlehem.


As I pause at the front door before reentering life’s hectic pace,

I do it with a renewed faith and grace.

For I have seen the truth of the ages, once foretold by the sages.

A love much greater by far than any of us can know

For I have seen it in the stars—

The star of Bethlehem.


I pause and ask once again,

 “Are you running with me Jesus?”

And then I whisper,

Thank you Lord, I know you are,

For I saw it in the stars—

The star of Bethlehem.

By Sheila Moore Thornburg Dobbie