Sir James George Frazer (18541941). The Golden Bough. 1922.
Manx language, a sort of Hogmanay song which began To-night is New Years Night, Hogunnaa! In ancient Ireland, a new fire used to be kindled every year on Halloween or the Eve of Samhain, and from this sacred flame all the fires in Ireland were rekindled. Such a custom points strongly to Samhain or All Saints Day (the first of November) as New Years Day; since the annual kindling of a new fire takes place most naturally at the beginning of the year, in order that the blessed influence of the fresh fire may last throughout the whole period of twelve months. Another confirmation of the view that the Celts dated their year from the first of November is furnished by the manifold modes of divination which were commonly resorted to by Celtic peoples on Halloween for the purpose of ascertaining their destiny, especially their fortune in the coming year; for when could these devices for prying into the future be more reasonably put in practice than at the beginning of the year? As a season of omens and auguries Halloween seems to have far surpassed Beltane in the imagination of the Celts; from which we may with some probability infer that they reckoned their year from Halloween rather than Beltane. Another circumstance of great moment which points to the same conclusion is the association of the dead with Halloween. Not only among the Celts but throughout Europe, Halloween, the night which marks the transition from autumn to winter, seems to have been of old the time of year when the souls of the departed were supposed to revisit their old homes in order to warm themselves by the fire and to comfort themselves with the good cheer provided for them in the kitchen or the parlour by their affectionate kinsfolk. It was, perhaps, a natural thought that the approach of winter should drive the poor shivering hungry ghosts from the bare fields and the leafless woodlands to the shelter of the cottage with its familiar fireside. Did not the lowing kine then troop back from the summer pastures in the forests and on the hills to be fed and cared for in the stalls, while the bleak winds whistled among the swaying boughs and the snow-drifts deepened in the hollows? and could the good-man and the good-wife deny to the spirits of their dead the welcome which they gave to the cows?
But it is not only the souls of the departed who are supposed to be hovering unseen on the day when autumn to winter resigns the pale year. Witches then speed on their errands of mischief, some sweeping through the air on besoms, others galloping along the roads on tabby-cats, which for that evening are turned into coal-black steeds. The fairies, too, are all let loose, and hobgoblins of every sort roam freely about.
Yet while a glamour of mystery and awe has always clung to Halloween in the minds of the Celtic peasantry, the popular celebration of the festival has been, at least in modern times, by no means of a prevailing gloomy cast; on the contrary it has been attended by picturesque features and merry pastimes, which rendered it the gayest night of all the year. Amongst the things which in the Highlands