The True, Lost Meaning of Halloween


Hallow’s Eve, Hallow E’en, Halloween, Day of the Dead, Samhain. By whatever name it has been called, this special night preceding All Hallows day (November 1st) has been considered for centuries as one of the most magical nights of the year. A night of power, when the veil that separates our world from the Otherworld is at its thinnest.As ubiquitous as Halloween celebrations are throughout the world, few of us know that the true origin of Halloween is a ceremony of honoring our ancestors and the day of the dead. A time when the veils between the worlds were thinner, and so many could “see” the other side of life. A time in the year when the spiritual and material worlds touched for a moment, and a greater potential exists for magical creation.

Ancient rites

In ancient times, this day was a special and honored day of the year.In the Celtic calendar, it was one of the most important days of the year, representing a mid point in the year, Samhain, or “summer’s end”.
Occuring opposite the great Spring Festival of May Day, or Beltain, this day represented the turning point of the year, the eve of the new year which begins with the onset of the dark phase of the year.

And while celebrated by the Celts, the origin of this day has connections to other cultures as well, such as Egypt, and in Mexico as Dia de la Muerta, or the day of the dead.

The Celts believed that the normal laws of space and time were held in abeyance during this time, allowing a special window where the spirit world could intermingle with the living. It was a night when the dead could cross the veils and return to the land of the living to celebrate with their family, or clan. As such, the great burial mounds of Ireland were lit up with torches lining the walls, so the spirits of the dead could find their way.

Jack-o-lanterns

Out of this ancient tradition comes one of our most famous icons of the holiday: the Jack-o-lantern. Originating from Irish folkfore, the Jack-o-lantern was used as a light for the lost soul of Jack, a notorious trickster, stuck between worlds. Jack is said to have tricked the devil into a trunk of a tree and by carving an image of a cross in the tree’s trunk, he trapped the devil there. His pranks denied him access to Heaven, and having angered the devil also to Hell, so Jack was a lost soul, trapped between worlds. As a consolation, the devil gave him a sole ember to light his way through the darkness between worlds.

Originally in Ireland turnips were carved out and candles placed inside as lanterns lit to help guide Jack’s lost spirit back home. Hence the term: Jack-o-lanterns. Later, when immigrants came to the new world, pumpkins were more readily available, and so the carved pumpkins carrying a lit candle served the same function.

Festival for the dead

As the Church began to take hold in Europe the ancient Pagan rituals were co-opted into festivals of the Church. While the Church could not support a general feast for all the dead, it created a festival for the blessed dead, all those hallowed so, All Hallow’s, was transformed into All Saints and All Souls day.

Today, we have lost the significance of this most significant time of year which in modern times has turned into a candy fest with kids dressing up as action hereos.

Many cultures have ceremonies to honor their dead. In so doing, they complete a cycle of birth and death, and keep in line with a harmony and order of the universe, at time when we enter into the cycle of darkness for the upcoming year.

As you light your candles this year, keep in mind the true potency of this time, one of magical connections to the other side of life, and a time to remember those who have passed before us. A time to send our love and gratitude to them to light their way back home.

About the Author: Christan Hummel is  an international lecturer and workshop leader.

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55 thoughts on “The True, Lost Meaning of Halloween

  1. Well written and historically accurate. Appreicate the post.

  2. What a lot of crap. It’s still worship, but not of GOD. Therefore, it is unholy!!

  3. To each his own.

  4. wow… i really enjoyed reading this.. i also really wanted to know the meaning of halloween… i knew there were other reasons for this certain holiday than to dress up and hand out candy!! I give this 2 thumbs up!!

  5. Thanks so much, Ashley!

  6. I had not known the Jack o’lantern story, very fascinating. Learning more about the origins of Halloween just confirms why the autumn is my favorite time of year.

  7. I REALLY ENJOYED READING THESE STORIES BECAUSE I DIDN’T KNOW THE TRUE ORGIN OF THE TERM OR WORD HALLOWEEN AND THESE REALLY FASINATED ME THANKS ALOT YOUR WEBSITE WAS REALLY HELPFUL

  8. LQAQUASHA, thanks for your kind words. Glad you enjoyed this post.

  9. i never new the real meaning of halloween thanks it really helped me understand halloween.i had to look up halloween and you just helped for my research.thanks your the baest.

  10. that carving of the wolf was really cool did u do that urself?i wander if u could answer my questions.where is that door located and how did u get that picture of the bird in front of the moon.

  11. Hi keanani,
    I’m glad you like the post. No, I did not carve the wolf. The door is located at a house in Italy where we took a vacation 3 years ago. You can get the bird image here:

    Thanks for your nice comments.

  12. thanx this helped me alot becuase i was talkin to my mother about halloween horror night well she ask me if i new the meaning of halloween and what it is realy about and i said i didnt realy now so i looked it up and i have found out many things with lead to more thins and well this got me on the right trake thanx i could have found out so much if it wasnt for this post

  13. TaLiA, I’m glad it helped you out!

  14. hi i am happy to see this web site it’s nice to know the true meaning of helloween!thanks again and hope u all also have a sweet but safe one too!

  15. And while celebrated by the Celts, the origin of this day has connections to other cultures as well, such as Egypt, and in Mexico as Dia de la Muerta, or the day of the dead.

    *****Just to let you know this whole paragraph is wrong. It’s ” El dia do los muertos” and it’s not even close to being like Halloween. It’s when you pay your respects to the dead. I don’t think you do that on Halloween.

  16. El Dia De Los Muertos*

  17. Mariela,
    I don’t think the author intended to say that El Dia, which is religious and cultural, is like Halloween. I think he meant that it serves as one of the historical inspirations for Halloween, which is not religious.

  18. Thanks!! thats all very fascinating and interesting to hear

  19. Halloween is Devils holiday, and you guys don’t understand what it is means to celebrate for Devil. God will punish you. You only have to worship and give thanks to GOD not to Devil. Think about it seriously.

  20. Olga,
    I don’t know anyone who worships the devil at Halloween or any other time.

  21. Real nice…
    I enjoy Oct. especially since its my birth month.
    I love the ways of my ancestors.

  22. Thank you this helped me out alot!

  23. Eloise L. Reinders

    Witches, Skulls, and hauntings. I’m pretty sure when you ask “What Would Jesus Do?”, frightening children and howling at the moon are not on the top of His list. Just please realize if you are practicing glorifying this holiday that is not founded by the Bible, you’re not a practicing Christianity. It’s never too late to come to the undark side.

  24. W0w i didnt no all that very interesting thanks

  25. Celebrating is a form of worshiping. It’s a trick not a treat and you are all so easily being tricked. It’s a pagan holiday. One would certainly not parade into church with a demon costume and worship God. I don’t think you’re posting all the comments you’re getting who are against this halloween. Do people know who the Celts are?

  26. Celebrating is not a form of worship. We celebrate birthdays without worshiping anyone. I post all comments here that do not include profanity or name calling.

  27. Eloise, I never ask “What would Jesus do.”

  28. ARE I LOVE THE PEOPLE AGAINST HALLOWEEN. THERE THE SAME ONES WHO SHOW UP AT OUR SOLDIERS FUNERALS PROTESTING, SAYING GOD KILLED THEM BECAUSE HE HATES FAGS.——-GET A LIFE!

  29. THE INFO ABOUT HALLOWEEN WAS GREAT. MOST OF OUR XMAS RITUALS COME FROM PAGAN TRADITION TOO, SO IS XMAS EVIL -

  30. October 30th, 2008

    Thank you for sharing the significance of Halloween!

    Thank you for showing it as part of the cycle of life and, therefore, also of death.

    I should hope that someone will light the way for me someday when I am searching for a way back…

  31. Does in not say in the bible not to judge. I am a Christian but I have celebrated Halloween all my life and oh my goodness guess what I dont worship the devil nor am I corrupted. This person has posted a wonderful entry about the true meaning of a time were people get together. God believes in Unity and god loves all, even those ghost and goblins you so harshly talk about. God in not a vengous god nor does he believe in revenge. He is a loving god. No one has the right to say anything bad about this post. I read it and I believe it to be wonderful. It just shows that there are people in this world that think that are above others and they can be immature. Things can be celebrated with god still apart of their life. All of you who are making these remarks are being evrything that god does not appreceiate. Grow up. It is not your place to decide what is right or wrong and who is going to hell. That is GODS job. If you believe those people are wrong pray for them dont be hateful and judgemental. Katknit this was an excellent post. It really gave me some perspective. Thanks

  32. Well said, Christin. Thank you.

  33. Ok. I’m a Christian and all of this is BULL CRAP!!!.
    Sure, God does believe in Unity but in unity to worship HIM. Not anyone else. in the bible says do not have any other God except for him (10 commandments Exodus 20)..
    What does it mean when we dress up in ugly costumes and the death?? is that Glorifyin God???. God is living. God is life. Completely contradictory to death.. (if yal read more into the story they had sacrifices). Sacrifices of ppl. Do we not read the news?. The time when most ppl are kidnapped/lost is during halloween. Is this a work of God??? NO!. this is all pagan stuff. halloween is a worship to satan and no one else. Till this day satanist sacrifice ppl. yes its true. why don’t we know this? cuz we are ignorants so therefore we don’t care. most ppl will be like “well it doesnt have anythin to do with me, so why should i care”. WRONG. People think halloween is all about fun, trick or treating, rollin, partyin. Its not. So don’t try to make something Wrong seem right. gah ppl we need to be smarter than this!!!

  34. katknit replied:

    Olga,
    I don’t know anyone who worships the devil at Halloween or any other time.

    October 25, 2008 at 12:45 am.
    —————————————————

    If you do not know this is happening around the world maybe you should study and investigate. This is happening now my friend. You do not know who woships the devil because THEY WILL NOT LET YOU KNOW. for real. that stuff is secret and wont be shouting it at loud.

  35. I am another christian. Converted a few years back. I was researching the true meaning of holloween to make a decision as to whether or not I would continue to allow my children to participate. Thanks for the info, well written. But my conclusion is that anything that glorifies anything other than God is not what he would want of me or anyone for that matter. But like you said kitknat to each his own. But I must add we will all have to give an account before Him.

  36. You idiots: to each her own; God is a manmade creation, get it. Without this problem, many murders throughout the centuries in His name would not have occurred!

  37. Amanda, God is a manmade creation????????
    what exactly are you trying to say with that?

  38. Thank you for publishing this! I am outraged that the top two links are nothing more than hateful, misinformed slander of what Halloween was truly about.

    People need to start respecting each other again. Put the mud down. We need to look at the world around us with eyes unclouded by hate, and think for ourselves. Humanity would be much happier if we all decided to do so.

  39. really….where you got those research…

  40. If you think Halloween is unholy, then your saying that so is the easter bunny, santa claus, and anything like that. Honestly, Halloween is really a tradition. And a time for family’s to spend time together.

  41. lots of kids think that halloween is about scary stuff and candy but its not. id like to say that its about fun stuff but its not really. its about dead peoples’ spirits coming out to see their families again and to be with them. it’s not about the devil…that’s just the church people trying to scare us. pagans were here before christians and they will be here after aswell. it is the most powerful time to communicate with the dead…that is not evil. stella (age 9)

  42. i agree with u christin but jack can’t trick the devil. he is 2 old and has a lot of experience. u cannot trick the former chief of angels and this was a smart entry. p.s i am a christian.

  43. KATHY AND KRISTY DIAMOND

    UCLA BRUIN TOUCHDOWN!! I LOVE THIS MYTH OF HALLOWEEN. MANY CHRISTIANS ARE SCARED OF HALLOWEEN AND THE DEAD RISING BUT TO UNDERSTAND THE CEREMONY – DAY OF THE DEAD IS SUPER. MY IDENTICAL TWIN SISTER AND I ARE BORN ON HALLOWEEN, 1957. KRISTY, MY TWIN IS AFRAID OF HER OWN BIRTHDAY, THE DAY OF THE DEAD. SHE LOVES YOUR MYTH AND CONTINUES TO CELEBRATE HALLOWEEN.. WE CELEBRATE OUR IRISH ANCESTERS – MISS THEM AND UNDERSTAND THE DAY OF THE DEAD IS TO CELEBRATE AND NOT BE SCARED. THANK YOU, KATHY DIAMOND

  44. Wow! the things you find on the internet! We are Christians and we participate in halloween, we think of it only of an evening to let kids have fun. It is a night that our entire neighborhood participates in together, all parents watching out for all children. most dress as super heros, princess’ and disney characters. No evil doings here! As far as our loved ones that have past away, we will see them when god permits . Not a second before. I think it is like they say, “Its what you make of it”. there is a difference between worship and kids having harmless fun. And thats what we make of it, harmless fun! some church’s even have “Safe trick-or-treating”.

    • I just wanted to add that not “some” churches even have “Safe trick-or-treating”. MANY MANY MANY churches do. :)

  45. What I find so fascinating is that almost of the world’s cultures that “celebrate” or remember the dead do so in such a living world way. By that I mean that in China, for example, one burns money for the ancestors; the smoke rises to the heavens where it can reach the ancestors who may need it on their journey, or the Mexicans who lay out a deceased love one’s favorite foods so that he/she won’t go hungry.
    The connection to them as “living” with “the needs of the living” suggests to me that they are in many ways still alive for those who are left to remember them.
    I know that this also exemplifies how various cultures can come to understand what happens after death…
    I think it’s great!
    Karen http://folkheartpressblog.blogspot.com

  46. MOST OF YOU SAY I ONLY CELEBRATE HALLOWEEN FOR FUN, BUT YOU HAVE TO THINK , WHERE THE ENTERTAINMENT IS COMING FROM. IT IS COMING STRAIGHT FROM THE DEVIL. I FEEL FOR ALOT OF YOU WHO ARE MISINFORMED AND I WILL PRAY FOR ALL OF YOU.

  47. well, i t hink it was very interesting, i don’t know why but for some odd reason i always felt there was more to halloween then what i was taught. and this helped me understand a bit more. thank you very much. halloween is not to worship the devil. it clearly state’s that at one time it was a celebration for a spirit world to join the flesh world for one day, to be united. as the years passed by we as individuals has changed all of that, once again being prejiduce. and for those that really don’t know the real meaning of prejiduce, (it mean’s pre judging.)… we sperated one special day to be with our love one’s that has passed on to the after life, just because they were not holy enough.. Now a day that is suppose to be a holy day for all, is now considered a Devils day.. well i have news for all those that think its a devils day. ITS NOT SO GET OVER IT. the devil is just an imagination buried within you. look at the word carefully, what is it spelled back words( LIVED). thats right lived, an experience you have encounted or have not yet to experience and you feel that if you do your worshiping the devil. live life, that is why god died for us, enjoy what we have, why is halloween not ok but christmas and easter is. oh cause its about god. well guess what maybe god was trying to give us something amazing and beautiful, but because we are so narrow minded we could not realize that…. Thank you katknit, you have been such and eye opener to me and so many others. ( oh and sorry for some misspelled words, and crazy grammer)

  48. (abridged comment)

    What you think isn’t bothering you in the NATURAL realm, (where you can physically see what’s going on), may be killing you in the SPIRITUAL realm (where you can not see who or what’s fighting against you); which WILL eventually catch up with you in the NATURAL. People, demons and the devil can see you and hear you just fine. (By the way, no they can not hear your thoughts, only God can) The Bible says that “My people perish for the lack of knowledge.” (Hosea 4:6)

    God Bless

  49. Thanks for this article. I’ve never celebrated Halloween however I was searching for the first time for it’s true meaning after posting a question about it on Facebook. In reference to what was said above, “My people perish for the lack of knowledge,” (many religious people do). There is no devil. If you believe in the devil, then the devil will become a major part of your life. Why give power to something that does not exist. It seems as though the devil and hell takes up precedence in many lives than God. The devil is blamed for all the obstacles. Take responsibility for your disappointments and mishaps. The devil and hell are what you create. Hell was called “Hedes,” which means “grave,” not a lake of fire. What God would create us and then burn us forever in a lake of fire? Does that make any sense when God is love? Pick sense out of nonsense. The Bible is the inspired word of man, about God. Do some research. Who the hell was King James to authorize how I must live my life. I have yet to see a true version of the Bible. Everything is some sort of, “version…The New International Version, King James Version, etc. “What was good for grandma” is not good enough for me. I like to ask, question, and research before accepting anything like I was forced to as a child. I have found more peace, happiness, love, and tolerance to all people now because of running away from all the negatives of religion. Become multi-sensory human beings, and evolve with the times. Always seek knowledge. Thanks again for this article.

  50. i just felt like leaving a comment.

    RACKOE look for it.

  51. Just a quick fix: in México it is “Día de muertos”, and it’s about our loved ones coming to visit and share with us living in this very special night :)

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