Some Halloween traditions Iowans are celebrating today have roots in ancient Irish farms. Anne Effland is an agricultural historian and says a few everyday farming practices in 800 B.C. have morphed into our modern ways. October 31st was the last day of the Celtic New Year and livestock were rounded up and brought closer to home.
Effland says some Druids today still hold animal slaughter rituals. “It may have developed from the practice of killing animals at the end of the harvest period to reduce the number of animals you’re going to feed and you can prepare your meat to be available throughout the winter,” Effland says.
As for wearing spooky costumes, it was believed that on the last day of the Celtic New Year, spirits of those who died during the previous year would return to visit family and friends — so the Celts donned disguises or scary get-ups.
Effland says, “There is some research that suggests the dressing up was a way to scare them off.” She says the ritual of bonfires on Halloween night was part of their end-of-harvest festivities as well.
By Karla James