History of Halloween
Over 2,000 years ago the Celts celebrated summer’s end, or Samhain (pronounced /ˈsɑːwɪn/ SAH-win) on the 1st of November which marked the end of harvest and the beginning of winter. The night before Samhain, people believed the dead returned as ghosts. By leaving food and wine on their doorstep they would keep the ghosts away – they also dressed in disguise to blend in with the ghosts who walked among them.
The Christian Church turned Samhain into All Saints Day and in the 8th century All Saints Day became known as All Hallows. That was when October 31st became All Hallow’s Eve. What exactly is a “hallow”? According to Google it is a saint or holy person.
During the reign of Queen Mary I of England in 1556, the term All Hallow’s Eve was reportedly used, however, it was used in the setting of the church and not as a “celebration” as we know it today.
Author Nancy Bilyeau wrote an article on October 27, 2011 for the website English Historical Fiction Authors website and said the following (no source listed):
The first recorded use of the word “Halloween” was in mid-16th century England. It is a shortened version of “All-Hallows-Even” (“evening”), the night before All Hallows Day, another name for the Christian feast that honors saints on the first of November. – Nancy Bilyeau, The Truth about Halloween and Tudor England
There was a similar statement on Halloween-History.org that states: “Halloween is said to have started as early as 16th Century.”
Souling and Guising
Activities like Souling and Guising originated in medieval England. These activities were spread out from All Hallows Eve through All Souls Day.
Souling generally happened on All Souls Day (Nov. 2) when the needy would beg for soul cakes. In return for the soul cakes they would pray for the souls of peoples dead relatives. Christians believed their loved ones would await passage into heaven (purgatory) until enough people prayed for their souls. Many times, in their wills, they set aside money for mass to be said for them for this very reason.
Guising was when young people would dress in costume and accept food, wine, money and other items in exchange for singing, citing poetry or telling jokes.
Following the break with Rome, Queen Elizabeth I of England forbade observances of All Soul’s Day (Nov. 2) – In spite of that, the customs survived.
Whether your American or British, it’s likely you’ll be looking for a great costume idea this year – why not dress like a Tudor? Here are a few costume ideas for you:
Costumes for Men & Women: