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The true meaning of Halloween, between ancient legends and customs of the world


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The meaning of the Halloween party, now widespread and rooted also in Italy, is known to few. Let’s find out together

true halloween story
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It is now also a tradition for our country in the days before 1 and 2 November to see around carved pumpkins and witch masks. But do we know what are the origins of this anniversary?

The meaning of the Halloween party

This festival seems to have very ancient origins and recall different cultures. In recent years, the trend to celebrate this anniversary has been imported from the United States but in reality they are the ones who imported it from the “old continent” and then made it a commercial party.

A brief research will clarify its origins and its meaning. Let’s start with the word Halloween which plausibly derives from the sentence “All Hallows’ Eve”, or “Eve of all sacred spirits”.

meaning halloween
image from adobestock

The meaning of Halloween refers to ancient traditions of culture Celtic and Anglo-Saxon; there are several hypotheses about its origin:

  • some relate it to the Roman festival dedicated to Pomona, the goddess of fruits and seeds
  • others to feast of the dead that the Romans called i Parentalia, but which took place in February
  • but most refer it to Celtic festival of Samhain, which roughly means ‘end of the summer’ and represents the Celtic New Year, or the day when shepherds brought their flocks back to the valley and prepared for winter. In Ireland this holiday is very much felt, even if with the advent of Christianity it has taken on a more spiritual meaning and is also associated with the dead, as well as with the “death” of nature at this time of year.
  • some still call it one satanic party and reconnect it at the beginning of new year for witches. In ancient pagan populations, witches used to gather on the top of the mountains to summon spirits and demons. This custom was called Sabbath and it seems that October 31 was a particularly significant date for them because it was celebrated on Black Sabbath. In some Italian cities such as Benevento, there is a deep-rooted popular tradition linked to witches and even today this time of year is celebrated according to the popular tradition between the pagan and the Catholic.

Many are linked to Halloween symbols that refer to the occult: for example, the traditional carving of pumpkins that become scary faces is linked to the ancient custom of carve turnips and make lanterns out of them to remember the souls stuck in Purgatory.


The legend of Jack o’Lantern

The legend of Jack o ‘Lantern comes from an ancient Irish legend of a blacksmith who met the devil several times and always managed to deceive him, finally made a pattor with him to avoid eternal damnation. But when he later died, Jack was rejected in Heaven because of his sins and did not go to hell because of the deal he made with the devil. Then he was forced to wander into the world of the living and on the night of October 31st he sought refuge in homes. That is why there is the custom of hang lighted lanterns or pumpkins at the door to drive Jack away.

In Ireland and Scotland for this purpose the turnips, but the immigrants to North America folded over pumpkins, more easily available because originating in the place and also much more suitable for carving, given the size.

The most famous customs for Halloween night

There are many customs and traditions related to the Halloween party and its meaning, let’s see which are the most famous and how they were born

The custom of the game ‘trick or treat’ it seems to have several origins:

  • there are those who connect it to Jack o’Lantern and to the fact that he wandered through the houses threatening curses for the inhabitants of the house who would not satisfy him with a sacrifice, the famous “Trick or threat”, literally translated “sacrifice or curse”
  • others instead trace it back to the Middle Ages and to the practice ofalms of All Saints: it is said that on this date in fact Poors went from door to door and received “The bread of the soul”, that is a treat square stuffed with raisins, in exchange for prayers for the dead dear to ‘benefactors’.


That of disguise it is a custom much loved by adults and children. All the figures that recall the legends and the stories told are re-proposed through the disguises in a playful way. But it was the ancient Celts who used to wear the skins of dead animals on Halloween night to scare the spirits.

Originally the disguise was supposed to be frightening and strictly homemade, as the video below shows us, then slowly it changed and was enriched with characters from the cinema or figures suitable for children. Today the most typical Halloween disguises are those of a witch or a devil, a ghost or a pumpkin.

Another custom, this typically American, is that of peel an apple on Halloween night to find out how long it will live. But the apple must be peeled without ever breaking the peel: the longer the peel, the longer the life.

Finally, how can we forget the custom of carving pumpkins, creating scary faces. This American custom is linked as we have said to the story of Jack o’Lantern and is perhaps the most typical of this period. In fact, the pumpkin remains the symbol of Halloween, in all its forms, at the table as in the decorations.

Today that of Halloween it is a mainly commercial party, with a mainly playful purpose especially for children and young people, which however refers, as we have seen, to ancient rites and festivals, halfway between the sacred and the profane. There are many traditions related to this festival, you just have to choose which one you prefer and celebrate with your children.

the true story of halloween legends of the world
image from adobestock

Dear unimamme, what do you think, now that you know more, about the history of the Halloween party, which has its origins in so many myths and legends around the world?

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