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It’s Halloween: ghosts, witches, pumpkins, and black cats; it’s that time of year again when it starts to get that fall chill in the air and everybody is in the spirit to celebrate, some even argue that it is the kickoff to the holiday season! However, what do we really know about the history of Halloween?
Sure the traditions are little children dressing up and trick-or-treating, scary movie marathons, haunted trails, and costume parties; but where did it all start? I asked myself this very question and decided instead of wondering where it started I would actually find out, and the research and information I found was very insightful. Did you know that Halloween’s origins date more than 2,000 years ago?
European Celtic’s celebrated their New Year on Nov. 1 (called Samhain) and it was their belief that the night before (Halloween) spirits of the deceased would walk through Earth traveling to the afterlife; among these spirits were demons and mystical creatures. The Celtic people often wore costumes or masks on this night and gathered together creating bonfires to ward off the bad spirits and honor the ones going to the afterlife.
Moving on from the Celtic people to a Christian influence who transformed the celebration of Samhain, now Nov. 1 is most commonly known as All Saints Day (this was done through Pope Boniface IV originally to honor the martyred and the saints) and the night before is referred to as Hallows Eve or Halloween.
The adaptation of Halloween still consisted of bonfires, costumes and celebration; overtime Halloween turned into a community-based event where people would gather and celebrate. Immigrants coming from Europe to America brought along with them the traditions celebrating Halloween, which really became main stream through the Irish-American immigration population. In the late 1800s Americans decided to make their own traditions on Halloween night, making it more of a community holiday get-togethers than about the afterlife. The adoption of what we now call trick-or-treating was created around the turn of the century, it was an inexpensive way to gather with ones’ community and have celebrations.
It is now guesstimated that Americans spend six billion dollars annually on Halloween which makes it the second largest commercial holiday. Throughout history Halloween has always had the undertone of superstitions and magical beliefs; the scary aspect of Halloween formed through the warding off of bad spirits, the costumes even started earlier than I had ever imagined.
Knowing more about Halloween and the history of it makes it that much more exciting to celebrate and gather around for yet another fabulous holiday!