Why was Samhain so important to the Celts?

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Samhain is basically the ancestor of the modern day Halloween, but contrary to trick and treating and pumpkin carving, it was a more serious event in the life of the Celts who once lived on the land that now belongs to Ireland and the UK.

Bonfre

Bonfires played an important role on Samhain (Photo: pixabay.com)

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First of all, we need to explain what Samhain actually is. It was an important holiday for the Celts who lived on the lands what we now know as the British Isles. Because they celebrated the beginning of the new year at the beginning of November, the last days of the previous month were important too.

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The reason why Celts set the end of the year at the end of October is that that was the time when the harvest ended, and when the days began to become noticeably darker and colder. So, between the old and the new year, they believed that the borders of the living and the dead world became weaker.

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This is why they believed that the two worlds can merge on Samhain, when the souls of the dead were believed to be walking on Earth again. They even believed that when the crops became ill or were damaged, it was due to the actions of the dead people who came back to haunt the land.

But this was also an occasion for the druids to make their predictions for the next year, and as people knew little about how nature works and how they might prevent illnesses and crop failures, it was the predictions of the druids that they considered when making their everyday decision.

Samhain was also a kind of gathering for people. Before they left their homes, they put out the fires, but then they visited the huge sacred bonfire that the druid made for the celebration, and once it was over, everyone took a tiny sparkle from the big fire to take it home.

Anita D.

October 2019