by | Oct 31, 2016 | Celtic Thunder News | 0 comments



The Celts celebrated four major festivals each year. None of them was connected in anyway to the sun’s cycle. The origin of Halloween lies in the Celt’s autumn festival which was held on the first day of the 11th month, the month known as November in English but as Samhain in Irish.
– Imbolc: 1st February
– Beltaine: 1st May
– Lughnasa: 1st August
– Samhain: 1st November

The Celts believed that the passage of a day began with darkness and progressed into the light. The same notion explains why winter – the season of long, dark nights – marked the beginning of the year and progressed into the lighter days of spring, summer and autumn. So the 1st of November, Samhain, was the Celtic New Year, and the celebrations began at sunset of the day before i.e. its Eve.

Before the onset of the dark days of winter a huge celebration was held. This was partly to celebrate the end of the harvest season and a last party before the onset of winter’s semi-hibernation.

Halloween (All Hallows Eve), or Oíche Shamhna was considered a turning point in the calendar. Samhain meant the start of winter, when cattle were brought down from summer pastures, tributes and rents paid, and other business contracted. Because Samhain marks the close of the season of light and the beginning of the dark half of the year, it was perceived as a liminal moment in time when movement between the otherworld and this world was possible.

As part of the custom of Halloween, bonfires were lit throughout the land to ward off evil spirits from the supernatural world, which were thought to roam the earth freely on this night. Children disguised with masks & costumes embody these spirits, who ordinary mortals must “appease” with gifts of nuts, apples or sweets when they arrive at the door.

The festivals are known by other names in other Celtic countries but there is usually some similarity, if only in the translation.

In Scottish Gaelic, the autumn festival is called Samhuinn. In Manx it is Sauin. The root of the word – sam – means summer, while fuin means end. And this signals the idea of a seasonal change rather than a notion of worship or ritual. The other group of Celtic languages (known as Q-Celtic) have very different words but a similar intention. In Welsh, the day is Calan Gaeaf, which means the first day of winter. In Brittany, the day is Kala Goanv, which means the beginning of November.


Submit a Comment

Follow Us

  • fb_icon
  • insta_icon
  • twitter_icon
  • yt_icon