The Origins of Halloween

Halloween is one of the most anticipated and celebrated holidays of the year. Kids dress up as their favorite characters and go house to house in order to receive sweet treats. Many culinary accomplishments are attributed to Halloween time such as candy apples, popcorn balls, and any food that looks like it might belong in a horror movie. Halloween is one of the highest grossing holidays of the year aside from Christmas. Families spend billions of dollars on costumes and other Halloween related merchandise.

The origins of Halloween have been traced to over 2,000 years ago to a Celtic Holiday known as Samhain. Samhain was the start of the Celtic year and marked the end of summer for the Celtics. Samhain was celebrated on November 1st but it was believed that Samhain Eve, October 31st, was the time of year when the dead came back for a night in the form of ghosts. Families would leave food and refreshments for their loved ones who had come back from the dead for that one night. People would also wear masks on their faces when they had to travel on Samhain Eve so that they would blend in with all the other ghosts. This day was important to Celtics because they believed that Samhain Eve gave their priests, a group known as the Druids, the ability to better see into the future and the upcoming year. They would gather around a large bonfire as a group, wearing costumes and spend the night warding off unfriendly ghosts and trying to predict the upcoming year. Samhain faded out after the Celtics were conquered and the world progressed past prophesies. The holiday became a part of many other traditions and parts of Samhain were still celebrated.

From the 8th to the 9th Century, Samhain became All Hallows and the night before became All Hallows Eve, which was eventually shortened to simply Halloween. This is thought to be because at the time Christianity was widespread in the area where the Celtics lived. The church wanted to establish a church-sanctioned holiday that would still have some components of the Celtic holiday but would allow for a more religious view. Trick or Treating is a result of two different traditions that originated out of Medieval Britain, Souling and Guising. Souling is when young needy people would beg for pastries and bread in return for praying for the diseased or for the end of famine and plagues. Guising is a tradition, where young children would dress up in costumes and accept money, food, and wine from others because they would perform jokes, small skits, dances, or would sing. These two traditions morphed into trick or treating. While the start of trick or treating was mainly an excuse for tricks, the 1950’s saw a change in the tradition and it became more family friendly.

 

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