A History of Halloween

By: Daelyn Wilson and David Arellano

It’s the holiday many small children look forward to for one main reason: candy! On the 31st of this month, families all over will each be celebrating Halloween and younger kids dressing up as their favorite heroes and characters. But was Halloween always celebrated in this fashion? Where exactly did this holiday originate from?

close up photo of halloween decors
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The original traditions of All Hallows Eve stemmed from an ancient Celtic festival known as “Samhain” (sow-in). This festival took place on the night before the new year. Since this happened about two thousand years ago, the Celts believed November 1st to be the first of the year. The Samhain festival was celebrated the night before, October 31st. During this festival, they would set bonfires and wear costumes, typically mirrored after animals, to prevent ghosts from disturbing them. It was this day that they believed the veil between the land of the living and the land of the dead was thinner, allowing spirits of the deceased to pass through freely.

On May 13, 609 A.D Pope Boniface IV established All Saints Day or All Hollows Day. Later it was established that the 2nd of November, the same day that Samhain, be All Souls Day. Later All Souls Day and All Saints Day were observed collectively as Hallowtide. Later during the ninth century, Christianity spread to the Celtic soil where Celtic and Christian customs began to blend together. During All Souls, Day children would go around asking food, money, or ale in exchange for a prayer for the dead souls. These children would carry a turnip that was carved from the inside, and in the middle, there was a candle. To some this candle represented a soul caught in Purgatory; others said that the candle was used to ward off evil spirits.

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Although the firm Protestant beliefs of American Colonists limited the celebration of Halloween in America, it slowly became more popular and well known.  Adapting it as their own, they would hold public events to share stories, celebrate the harvest, sing, dance, tell stories, and more. Annually, autumn harvest festivals were held, but Halloween was not officially celebrated. In 1845 the Irish Potato Famine began and millions of people emigrated from Ireland, where Halloween has its origins.

From there, the traditions prospered. Kids would don a costume and take a bag with them as they went doorstep to doorstep asking the timeless question, “Trick or Treat?” Today Halloween is the second biggest holiday in the U.S. Second only to Christmas Halloween makes six billion dollars annually.   Halloween lost a bit of the spooky ghost lore and heavy religious belief as it evolved over the decades, but if you look far enough in, you can still find the belief that the ghosts and ghouls visit the living world on All Hallows Eve.

If you would like to read more about the History of All Hallows Eve, you can check out this website.

Resources: https://www.history.com/topics/halloween/history-of-halloween

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