The History of Halloween

If you’re someone who has celebrated Halloween by decorating your house and dressing up, virtually raise your hand! If you’re someone who knows the actual history behind the holiday of Halloween, also raise your hand! 

 

Also - did you know that one quarter of all candy sold annually in the U.S. is purchased for Halloween?

 

Tradition

The tradition of Halloween originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. People would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts. The evening before Halloween used to be known as All Hallows Eve. The Celts mainly lived in an area now known as Ireland, UK, and northern France 2,000 years ago. 

 

This day marked the end of summer and the beginning of the cold & dark winter that was upon them as well as associated with death. Celts believed that October 31st is the day where the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. October 31st was also a day believed that ghosts of the dead returned to earth. Celts also thought the ghosts of the dead would come to cause trouble and damage crops. While there was potential for harming crops, Celts also believed their priests (Druids) had an easier ability on this day to make predictions about the future. Druids built sacred bonfires in costumes and told fortunes. Once the celebration was over, they re-lit the same fire as a way to protect themselves during the winter. 

 

Enter the Roman Empire

By 43 A.D., the Roman Empire had conquered the majority of Celtic territory. Two Roman festivals then took over during Halloween to combine multiple traditions. For example, there was a time to honor Pomona, the goddess of fruit and trees. In conjunction with the Samhain traditions, this likely explains the tradition for bobbing for apples that is still practiced today. 

 

Halloween Comes to America

Halloween was extremely limited in colonial New England because of the rigid Protestant belief system. The day of the dead holiday had much more popularity in Maryland and southern colonies. As beliefs and customs began to mesh, the first celebrations of Halloween were known as “play parties” to celebrate the harvest that would include telling stories of the dead, fortunes, dancing and singing. 

During the Irish Potato Famine and the flood of immigrants in the second half of the 19th century, Hallowed began to popularize. This is also when Americans began “trick or treating” which really was asking for food or money. By the 1920s and 30s, Halloween became secular with parades and town-wide parties. In the 1950s, Halloween got mainly redirected towareds young children. Little then did America know that Halloween would become a mutli-billion dollar holiday, right behind Christmas. 

 

No matter how old you are or how many times you’ve celebrated Halloween, it has a charm to it. What are you going to be this year?

 


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