The Origins of Halloween

By Tristan Davis

Many people are getting prepared for Halloween and all the activities that go along with the fun and costume wearing, but how did this holiday that so many love come to be? In this article, the origins and evolution of Halloween will be brought to light.

Halloween dates back thousands of years to the time of the Celtic people. During this time, the holiday was called “Samhain” and celebrated the end of the harvest. However, the end of the harvest also brought colder and darker days that would often coincide with deaths of many. For this reason, the Celts believed that, during this time, the veil between the world of the living and the world of the dead would become blurred and make it easier for the spirits of the dead to crossover to the world of the living.

These spirits were believed to cause mischief and damage crops, but the spirits also allowed Druids, Celtic priests, to see into the future. The Celts would build big fires and sacrifice animals to their deities. They would dress up as animals and attempt to tell each other’s fortunes. This is where we can see the beginning of the traditions of dressing up for Halloween.

Later, in 43 AD when the Romans took control of the vast majority of the Celtic land, two Roman holidays were combined with the celebration of Samhain. These two holidays were Feralia, a day in which the Romans celebrated the passing of the dead, and the celebration of Pomona. The symbol of Ponoma is an apple, which is where the idea of bobbing for apples may have come from.

When the Pope moved All Saints Day from May 13 to November 1 in 1000 AD, the celebration of All Saints Day became All Hallow’s or All Hallmas, and the day before was called All Hallows Eve. This belief eventually came to America, but not until the second half of the nineteenth century when a flood of predominately Catholic Irish immigrants arrived. Before this time, Halloween was not celebrated in the United States due to the rigid belief of the Protestants.

In the late 1800s, people sought to make the celebration of Halloween more about community and neighborly get-togethers rather than focusing on ghosts and witchcraft. This is when parties became more of thing. The newspapers also encouraged people to take the grotesque and frightening images out of Halloween. This publicity caused Halloween to lose much of its superstition, mystery, and its religious tone. This, however, did not stop people from doing mischievous acts.  In an attempt to stop the mischief, people were encouraged to give out treats, so as not to be tricked. This idea tended to work and became a part of the Halloween tradition.

Halloween has undergone many changes to make it the holiday that many people have grown to love. Halloween is so popular that it is estimated that $6 billion is spent on it annually. This makes it the second largest commercial holiday. So to you, the readers, if you go to a Halloween party or out with friends, remember to be safe and respectful when celebrating this age-old holiday.

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