Halloween Goes Way Back

Jack-o-lantern jackolantern halloween pumpkin
This column was written by CBS News Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith.
I helped do a documentary on Halloween for the History Channel years ago which is still running.

So, here's what you don't know about today. The ancient Celts used to have a festival called Samhain that marked the beginning of the long dark months of winter. It was basically their new year. It was a time when the barriers between the living and the spirit world fell away — ghosts would appear. The Celts would build huge bonfires and make sacrifices of crops or animals. Folks would dress up in animal skins.

The Romans rolled into Celtic territory not long after the death of Christ and they merged the Celts' pagan rituals with their own — that lasted until Celts converted to Christianity.

So, the Church cooked up something called All Saints Day, which coincides perfectly with the Celts' old holiday, which we celebrate as All Hallows Eve — Halloween.

Harry's daily commentary can be heard on manyCBS Radio News affiliates across the country.