Ah, the holidays. Always a fun time. The period of time from October to January is a time of many holidays across many cultures. However, the three most popular and well known in the U.S. are easily Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. These three holidays are juggernauts compared to other holidays throughout the year and are arguably the most exciting. But one of the most prevailing argument throughout time is which of these three are the best. Well I seek to answer this question and settle this long-time debate once and for all. Through extensive research, I will be comparing these three holidays over the course of five rounds to decide once and for all which one is the best. Since there are three contenders, I will score based on a ranking system; first place gets 2 points, second gets 1, and third gets 0. And remember, this choice is in no ways biased; it is based on research I’ve gathered. So let’s get started
Round 1: Origins
All three holidays have an interesting origin story. Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1st. This day marked the end of summer and the beginning of winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the New Year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31st they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. To commemorate the event, Druids (Celtic priests) built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other’s fortunes. When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter. Through Roman conquests during the 1st century, Christianity made its way into Celtic lands and soon influenced the holiday. In 1000 A.D., November 2nd was declared All Souls’ Day, a day to honor the dead. November 1st was All Saints’ Day, or All Hallows’ Day, to celebrate honor the saints and October 31st became All Hallows’ Eve. Halloween gained very little traction in the U.S. until the 19t century, when Irish immigrants brought many of their traditions, including Halloween, to the nation, where it was adopted by Americans. Thanksgiving can be traced back to the early 20th century. In 1620, a group of pilgrims from Plymouth, England sailed to the New World on the Mayflower and eventually settled the colony of Plymouth in Massachusetts Bay. There, they forged an alliance with the Wampanoag tribe of Native Americans and learned various techniques, such as how to cultivate corn, catch fish in nearby rivers, and how to extract sap from maple trees. In 1621, the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag shared an autumn harvest feast that is now acknowledged as the first Thanksgiving. For more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. It wasn’t until 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November. While the origins of Christmas is most associated with the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, the actual holiday of Christmas can find its roots in the Pagan festival of Saturnalia, a week-long period from December 17th-25th in which all courts were suspended and individuals could not be charged with crimes. Reports of this holiday document various elements that would eventually be incorporated into the traditional Christmas holiday, such as going from house to house singing naked, consumption of human-shaped biscuits, and citizens being compelled to provide emperors (in pre-Christian Rome) with gifts. In the 4th century, Christian leaders adopted the holiday in the hopes of converting Pagans to Christianity. To make it more Christian, they associated the holiday with Jesus’s birth. Many other aspects of the holiday can be traced back to Church leaders putting a Christian spin on Pagan traditions; the Christmas tree is based on the Pagan act of bringing trees into their homes and decorating them for religious reasons, while the concept of “kissing under the mistletoe” is related to the sexual license granted by Saturnalia. All three holidays have a complex and interesting origins story, but what makes them most interesting is that each is an example of cultural intermingling. This one is tricky, but I’m gonna have to give first place to Thanksgiving; its origin story is the most well-known and is one of the few instances of peace between New World settlers and Native Americans. Second place goes to Christmas since most people are familiar with the birth of Jesus. Halloween may have an interesting origin story, but not many people probably know anything about how it originated.
Round 2: Traditions and Decorations
All three holidays are known for having a wide array of traditions. Halloween is best known for costumes, trick-or-treating, and Jack-o-lanterns. Thanksgiving is popular for having food, football, and many people coming together. Christmas is best known for gift-giving, Christmas trees, and ugly sweaters. Because they all have unique traditions, for this round I’ll be focusing on the one they most have in common; decorations. Unfortunately, Thanksgiving is at an immediate disadvantage. Most Thanksgiving decorations are a combination of leftover Halloween decorations and early Christmas decorations. The only major decoration is the cornucopia and a few random figurines. Because of this, Thanksgiving is gonna get third place for this one. Christmas and Halloween on almost even ground when it comes to decorations; Halloween has Jack-o-lanterns, Christmas has trees. Both have lights, both have ornaments, and both have little figurines of various holiday icons. This one is close, but I’m gonna give it to Christmas due to the fact that their decorations are arguably more exciting and have a more colorful arrangement. Also, a Christmas tree can’t rot like a certain pumpkin decoration. Christmas takes first place, Halloween second, and Thanksgiving third.
Round 3: Food
Can I just give this round to Thanksgiving? No? Fine. When it comes to food, all three holidays once again offer a colorful array of items. Thanksgiving is usually a feast, with a turkey spearheading the dinner and various other side dishes accompanying it. You can always expect to find something you enjoy at Thanksgiving dinner. On the surface, Halloween food is somewhat limited by the fact that the main dish seems to be candy. But what makes food on Halloween unique is that it pushes the boundaries of certain snacks and other foods by adding some type of spooky or autumnal element. These include candied apples, caramel corn, and various snacks that you can customize to be based on a monster or character from Halloween themed movies. Also, is there really such a thing as too much candy? Christmas food is somewhat tricky as it seems to not really know what it wants. Christmas dinner usually consists of a lot of the same foods you just had a month ago at Thanksgiving. Sure you have candy canes but most of the time you just sit there sucking on it until all the red is gone. Plus the commercialization of peppermint-flavored foods and drinks have left me wondering why candy canes are still even a thing. Sure we have eggnog but usually that’s out by Halloween anyways so it really doesn’t make much difference. The winner of round 3 is Thanksgiving, with Halloween being the runner-up.
Round 4: Films, T.V., and the Media
This is a category where Thanksgiving is at an overwhelming disadvantage. All three holidays have made popular appearances throughout all walks of media. Christmas is arguably the most popular, having its own genre of film. Also, most popular T.V. shows have at least one Christmas special and pretty much every genre of film has a Christmas sub-genre. Even some scary movies also feature Christmas. Hell there’s even a whole channel dedicated to Christmas movies! So is that it? Does Christmas win the round? Well maybe it would if it was a one-on-one battle, but then there’s Halloween. Halloween films are not limited to just movies with Halloween featured; it also has scary movies to round out the genre. Scary movies are always a popular genre and Halloween season only intensifies this popularity, with the month of October being a hot bed for new releases of horror films. And just like T.V. shows have Christmas themed episodes they also have Halloween themed episodes. Also, Halloween may not have its own channel, but come on. The movies on Hallmark are B-list at best. Plus you can enjoy a scary movie year round. Watching a Christmas movie in July just feels wrong somehow. First place in this category goes to Halloween. For second place, we have to give it to Christmas. Thanksgiving doesn’t have much going for it in regards to film and T.V. beyond a parade and a Charlie Brown special. And while yes there are some T.V. shows that include Thanksgiving, its inclusion feels forced and kind of like an afterthought. Thanksgiving comes in third this round.
Round 5: Overall Popularity
All three holidays are without a doubt extremely popular. That’s what the point of this article is; to decide which the best is. But the thing about all holidays is that at the end of the day if you were to ask 100 people what their favorite is, you would get all types of answers. Even if you narrowed it down to just the three, it would still be tricky to get a consistent answer. Each one has something unique about it that differentiates it from the rest. Like I said though, I did research, and based on the majority of websites I’ve visited and articles that I’ve read Halloween usually falls behind the other two, and this kinda makes sense. Both Christmas and Thanksgiving represent so many of the positive ideals that are viewed as good or moral; togetherness, fraternity, love, and so many others. Halloween doesn’t really do that. Also, when it comes to Halloween, the holiday is really only marketed towards kids and young adults, as opposed to the other two which can be enjoyed by people of all ages. Plus you don’t get Halloween off for school or work. The other two are tricky but I’m gonna have to give first place to Thanksgiving. Everyone enjoys food and the sense of family and comradery that this holiday provides. Plus the next day is Black Friday, so once you eat all your food you can go get online to get some cool stuff. Christmas is always fun, but it’s also one of the most stressful holidays. Anyone who works in retail can attest to that. Thanksgiving comes in first, Christmas second, and Halloween takes third.
And with that we have our winner, Thanksgiving! It’s probably surprising since Thanksgiving is sometimes considered that random in-between holiday from Halloween to Christmas, but hey everyone loves an underdog. Christmas gets silver, and Halloween takes the bronze. DO you agree with these results? Feel free to discuss it with your friends and family. It could be something to talk about during Thanksgiving.