I love Halloween because, at least for me, signifies the coming of the Holiday season when my family makes time to be in the same room for more than an hour or two.
This time of year is important to me for that reason; family is important and just being near them makes me happy. They are the biggest group of smart-mouthed, sarcastic crazies I’ve ever had the pleasure to be around. We all seem to have a particular brand of twisted humor that always makes me feel at home but it also keeps me on my toes and it keeps my wits about me.
Go out have some fun for Halloween and eat come candy. It’s Halloween!
Here’s a little history lesson if you were wondering the origins of Halloween.
WESTERN KY (10/30/11)—Halloween is America’s second largest commercial holiday, raking in an estimated $6.9 billion in sales each year, yet the celebration itself has come a long way since its beginnings around 2 centuries ago.
Halloween’s origins date all the way back to the Celtic festival of Samhain (actually pronounced “Sow-in”). The 2,000 year-old Celtic culture, which originally thrived in portions of what are now known as Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France, held a celebration on November 1 that commemorated the beginning of a new year. This “new year’s day” symbolized the end of summer and the harvest season, and in sharp contrast, also signified the beginning of a dark and dreary (not to mention cold) winter for the Celts.
This particular time of year was often associated with high human death tolls as well. In fact, many in the Celtic culture believed that on the night before the New Year, the threshold separating the world of the living and the world of the dead became harder to distinguish. It was on this night-the night of October 31st- that they celebrated the aforementioned Samhain, during which it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to the earth. In addition to causing general mayhem and destroying crops, Celts believed that the presence of the ghostly spirits in the human world made it easier for the Celtic priests (Druids) to make predictions about the future.
To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. It was also during this celebration that the Celts wore pagan costumes, which many times included the donning of both animal heads and skins. It was also during this celebration that the Celts attempted to tell each other’s fortunes. When the celebration came to an end, hearth fires were re-lit in order to help protect their health during the coming winter.
However, by A.D. 43, the Romans had taken control over much of the Celtic territories. During the nearly four hundred years that they ruled the Celtic lands, two festivals of Roman inception were fused with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain.
The first of the Roman celebrations to become infused with Celt tradition was Feralia, which was normally celebrated in late October when the Romans commemorated the passing of the dead. The second was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple and the incorporation of this celebration into Samhain could explain the more “modern” Halloween tradition of “bobbing” for apples.
By the 800s, the influence of Christian religion had extended across the Roman/Celtic lands, and during seventh century, Pope Boniface IV named November 1st as “All Saints’ Day” (a time to honor saints and martyrs).
As most historians agree, the pope was more than likely trying to substitute the Celtic festival of the dead with a related, but church-sanctioned holiday. The religion-oriented celebration was sometimes called “All-hallows” or “All-hallowmas” as well (possibly derived from Middle English “Alholowmesse” meaning “All Saints’ Day”). In addition, the night before the festivity-originally the night of Samhain-began to be called “All-hallows Eve,” which eventually evolved into the moniker we know today: Halloween. Following this time period (around A.D. 1000) the Catholic Church also went on to title November 2nd as “All Souls’ Day,” which paid homage to the memory of the dead. Celebrated in a manner similar to the Celt’s Samhain, the memorial festival included the lighting of large bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes such as saints, angels, and devils. Together, the three celebrations, the eve of All Saints’, All Saints’, and All Souls’, were called Hallowmas.
Later on, European immigrants came to America, bringing with them their varied Halloween customs. However, as a result of the rigid Protestant and/or Puritanical belief systems that dominated early New England culture, the celebration of Halloween in colonial times was extremely limited in these particular regions. The celebration was much more accepted in Maryland and the southern colonies, though, and as the beliefs and traditions of different European groups, as well as forms of misunderstood Native Indian beliefs concerning life after death, meshed together, a uniquely American version of Halloween began to surface.
Interestingly enough, some of the first Americanized celebrations included “play parties” and/or public events held to commemorate the harvest, during which neighbors would share stories of the dead, tell each other’s fortunes, dance, and sing together.
Then, in the second half of the nineteenth century, a massive wave of new immigrants swept into the country. Of these new arrivals-with special regards to the millions of Irish families attempting to escape Ireland’s potato famine of 1846-many helped to make Halloween a nationally celebrated event.
With a heavy influence from Irish and English customs, many Americans began to dress up in costumes and go house to house asking for food or money, a practice that eventually became today’s “trick-or-treat” tradition. Additionally, Young women believed that they could divine the name or appearance of their future husband on Halloween by doing tricks with yarn, apple parings, or mirrors.
However, in the late 1800s, Halloween began to focus more on community-oriented and/or neighborly values. At the turn of the century, Halloween parties for both children and adults became the most popular way to celebrate the day. Parties focused on games, foods of the season, and festive costumes. Parents were also encouraged by newspapers and community leaders to take anything “frightening” or “grotesque” out of Halloween celebrations. In fact, it was mostly because of their efforts that Halloween lost most of its superstitious and religious overtones by the beginning of the twentieth century.
As a result, by the 1920s and 1930s, Halloween was an almost wholly secular event. Yet, in the face of strong efforts from many schools and communities to keep the holiday “clean” and “happy,” vandalism began to plague Halloween celebrations in many communities during this time. By the 1950s, though, town leaders all over the nation had successfully limited vandalism and Halloween became a holiday geared toward our country’s youth. Due to the high numbers of young children during the fifties baby boom, parties moved from town halls into the classroom or home, where they could be more easily accommodated. Between 1920 and 1950, the centuries-old practice of trick-or-treating was also revived. At its base, trick-or-treating was a relatively inexpensive way for an entire community to share the Halloween celebration, and, in theory, families could also prevent “tricks” from being played on them by providing the neighborhood children with small treats.
From all of these changes and mergers of tradition through time and cultures, a distinctly American tradition was born, and it has continued to grow into today. From massive bowls of candy, to high-end costumes, all the way to the thrill of being frightened in haunted houses, the American Halloween has now trumped other holidays in terms of related sales revenue, such as Thanksgiving and Easter, and has also come to be one of our strongest community-oriented celebrations.