Celebrated in late October and early November in the Northern Hemisphere, Samhain is the first of the four great festivals of the Celtic year. It marks the beginning of a “dark period” or dark season, being a transitional party and opening to the other world. ⠀

This celebration has pre-Christian origins and its purpose was to celebrate the harvest made throughout the year, save it before the coming of winter and prepare people for darker days. Precisely for this reason, Samhain has the bonfire as one of its symbols, since fire served (and still serves) to light up the night.

With darker days, it was common for people to be afraid of hauntings and negative spirits. It is even said that the use of costumes comes from there so that people would go unnoticed by evil spirits, “dressing” like them.

With the consolidation of Christianity in the 18th century, Pope Gregory decides to change the commemoration of All Saints’ Day from May 13th to November 1st, bringing the date closer to Samhain. His idea was to transform a pagan festival into a Christian celebration.

The Headless Horseman Pursuing Ichabod Crane (1858), John Quidor – Wikipedia public domain

But, after all, where does the term “Halloween”, so popularly used, come from?

When Pope Gregory changed the commemoration of All Saints’ Day from May 13 to November 1, it was clear that the celebration of Samhain took place on the eve of All Saints’ Day. That’s exactly where the term comes from: “All Hallows” which means all the saints and “eve” which means the day before. With the arrival of the Irish to the United States, which made the celebrations even more popular, the term is gradually changing and passes from All Hallows Eve to Halloween.

In the original tradition, candles were placed inside turnips to light up the night. As in North America, there were not so many turnips, but pumpkins at this time of year, the tradition also adapted to the local reality.

Carved Turnip from the National Museum of Ireland

In Brazil, many people take advantage of the date to value our folklore and celebrate Saci Day, which has its origins in the first nations of southern Brazil. “Saci” comes from the Tupi term sa’si, a bird known as “Saci”, “Matimpererê” or “Martim-pererê” (in Tupi: matentape’re).

Saci was portrayed as a black character who had two legs and a tail. With the African influence, he lost a leg fighting capoeira and gained the pipe. The red hat, on the other hand, comes from the folklore of northern Portugal, worn by Trasgo, who also had supernatural powers.

Saci Pererê – Museu Afro Brasil (artist unknown)

Sources: History.com / Pri Ferraz / Nerdist.com / Todamateria.com.br

Photo on the top: The Witch (Night Piece) Engraving 1626, Jan van de Velde. Image via CC0 Cleveland Museum of Art.