The Origins of Halloween

Allison Zuber, Contributor

In just two days Halloween will be upon us and since it is my favorite holiday I just had to write about it. Although this is my favorite holiday, I’m not sure how this holiday started other than children dressed up to ward off demons. So, I’ve decided that I will be exploring how and why Halloween started.

From my research, I have found that Halloween came about originally as a Celtic festival called Samhain. During this festival, they would dress up in costumes to ward off evil spirits and light bonfires. The Celts lived about 2,000 years ago around present-day United Kingdom, Ireland, and Northern France. The Celts celebrated their new year on November 1st. The new year for them meant the end of Summer and the beginning of Winter which they often associated with death. Many of the Celts believed the night before the new year the line between the living and the dead becomes blurred. They believed that the dead would return to the earth on this night which I why they would celebrate Samhain. 

The Celts thought that these spirits would damage crops and cause trouble. They also believed that it was easier for their priests to make predictions about the coming year. The priests would build giant fires and all the Celts would gather around in their costumes and burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. While doing this they would try to predict one another’s future. 

In 43 A.D. the Roman Empire had taken over the Celtic territory and Samhain was soon combined with two other festivals of Roman descent. One of these festivals was called Feralia, which was in late October and was put into place to respect the passing of the dead. The second of these festivals is a day to honor Pomona the Goddess of fruits and trees. The symbol of Pomona is an apple which is probably where the tradition of bobbing for apples on Halloween. 

When Halloween came to America it was mainly practiced in the southern colonies due to Protestant beliefs in the North. As different ethnic groups came to America Halloween was celebrated in a different way than the years prior to the Celtic region. They had decided to start celebrating the harvest with “play parties”, where they would tell ghost stories, tell fortunes, sing, and dance. By the middle of the 19th century these festivals were very common, but not yet celebrated everywhere in America.

America soon began to dress up in costumes and go from house to house asking for money or food. At the end of the century, Halloween parties for children and adults became popularized due to a movement that made Halloween about community and fun instead of the dead and witchcraft. By the 1920s and 1930s Halloween events were going on around the nation, and although parents and schools discourage children from acting out, vandalism became very popular during these festivals. Due to these acts of vandalism trick or treating made a comeback to make sure no pranks were being pulled on the neighborhood.

The tradition of trick or treating dates back to the All Souls’ Day in England where poor people would beg for food and families would give them soul cakes if the person promised to pray for the families dead relatives.

So, this is how quite possibly the best holiday ever created, was started.