We all love eating candy and playing a game of dress up. But who ever thought of mixing those two things together into a big old holiday? As with any holiday, there’s a load of history behind it. Halloween just happens to be one that we don’t delve into too much. But here’s an abridged past of the holiday for those who are ignorant of its ancestry.
Halloween is believed to have originated from an obscure Celtic festival called Samhain (pronounced Sao-when) 2,000 years ago on the night of October 31st. On the night before this festival, villagers left food on doorsteps and wore masks in order to blend in with looming spirits of the dead. Bonfires were lit and costumes were worn in hopes of warding off mischief-making spirits. They even enjoyed some comforting fortune telling from either friends, family, or priests.
Then the Roman Empire came around 43 A.D. and conquered most of the Celtic lands. Due to this, customs, cultures, and traditions mixed. Eventually, the Celtic “Halloween” was mixed with the Roman holidays of Feralia and Pomona. Pomona celebrated the Roman goddess of fruit and trees and Feralia celebrated the passing of the dead. Pomona’s trademark was the apple, so historians speculate that the bobbing for apples activity originated from this festival.
Now let’s skip to the 9th century. Christianity’s influence was impacting cultures everywhere, and eventually creeped its way into the Celtic lands. That’s when All Souls Day, which was to be celebrated November 2nd, came along to accompany All Saints Day, which was celebrated November 1st. All Souls Day commemorates the dead that have “not yet reached heaven.” All Saints Day honored martyrs and saints who have apparently reached heaven after death. This holiday was also known as All-Hallows, and the traditional Celtic holiday of Samhain (celebrated a night before) was eventually called Halloween.
As America came along, Halloween was celebrated in primarily southern colonies like Maryland, but not in others. This changed as soon as the latter half of the nineteenth century rolled in and immigrants flooded into the Americas. They (especially Irish immigrants) sort of hyped up Halloween for the rest of the country and helped bring Trick-or-Treating into our traditions. But it was still a rather not-so-family-friendly holiday with grotesque monsters and witchcraft being the main events. Thankfully, the paper took its role in influencing the masses and encouraged the people to turn their focus on the kid-friendly aspects of Halloween to make it a community-centered holiday.
Today, Halloween is primarily celebrated through costume parties and Trick-or-Treating. It’s also become relatively safe, and there’s zero prospect of you encountering any looming spirits on that night. But of course there’s always gonna be some delinquents who think that TP-ing a house is still cool. Regardless, it’s an enjoyable holiday for most families around America, and brings a sense of community and generosity to all who celebrate it.