Today ‘Halloween’ customs are thought to have been influenced by folk customs and beliefs from the ‘Celtic’ speaking countries, some of which have pagan roots, and others which may be rooted in ‘Celtic Christianity’. Indeed, ‘Jack Santino’, a folklorist, writes that “the sacred and the religious are a fundamental context for understanding Halloween in Northern Ireland, but there was throughout Ireland an uneasy truce existing between customs and beliefs associated with Christianity and those associated with religions that were Irish before Christianity arrived”.
Historian ‘Nicholas Rogers’, exploring the origins of ‘Halloween’, notes that while “some folklorists have detected its origins in the Roman feast of Pomona, the goddess of fruits and seeds, or in the festival of the dead called Parentalia, it is more typically linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain”, which comes from the ‘Old Irish’ for “summer’s end”. ‘Samhain’ was the first and most important of the four quarter days in the medieval ‘Gaelic’ calendar and was celebrated in ‘Ireland’, ‘Scotland’ and the ‘Isle of Man’.
It was held on or about 31 October – 1 November and kindred festivals were held at the same time of year by the ‘Brittonic Celts’; for example ‘Calan Gaeaf’ (in Wales), ‘Kalan Gwav’ (in Cornwall) and ‘Kalan Goañv’ (in Brittany). ‘Samhain’ and ‘Calan Gaeaf’ are mentioned in some of the earliest Irish and ‘Welsh’ literature. The names have been used by historians to refer to ‘Celtic Halloween’ customs up until the 19th century, and are still the ‘Gaelic’ and ‘Welsh’ names for ‘Halloween’.