As a person born of the divine day of October 31st, one may say I'm a bit biased on the topic of Halloween. However, I can safely say that my opinion is clearly supported by history and cold hard facts. Since this year, I turn 21, I thought it would be fun to show my love of this Holiday by telling its history. So buckle in, we are going on a spooky ride through time.
Halloween started under the name of Samhain, which was a Celtic tradition. The Celtics celebrated Samhain as the end of the year and of harvest since the cold, dead winter was coming. They thought that since the year was dying that the barrier between the worlds of the dead and living would blur. This would allow the ghosts to cross over and destroy crops.
The presence of the dead was also believed to allow greater connections with the Celtic Deities and allow for fortune telling. Thus, the people would put on animal skins, specifically over their heads, and try to tell each other's fortunes. They would also burn huge fires where they would sacrifice crops and animals to their Deities in return for protection of the upcoming cold.
The holiday was then combined with Roman culture when the Romans seized Celtic lands. The Romans celebrated two holidays in October, Feralia was celebrated in honor of the passing of the dead and Pomona in honor of the Goddess of fruit. Fun fact, Pomona's symbol was an apple. Can anyone guess what fall tradition we do with apples? That's right, apple bobbing.
Then, of course, as with most things, Christianity got ahold of the holiday. They dedicated the Pantheon to all Christian saints and martyrs and made November 1st, All Saints day. And, proceeded to make November 2nd All Souls Day, a celebration of the dead. The celebrations would consist of parades of people dressed as devils and angels, as well as giant bonfires.
These celebrations were also known as All-Hallows and the days before, October 31st, was called All-Hallows-Eve. Sound familiar? Yup, it eventually was slurred together to get Halloween.
Halloween was mostly celebrated in New England, but when it came to America, it melted into our societies culture pot of different backgrounds to get the Halloween we have today. It started as a celebration of the harvest where people would gather around and tell stories of the dead and fortunes. When the Irish came to America, escaping their famine, they brought over traditions of Halloween we know more of today.
Americans began to dress up and go around asking neighbors for food or money. They would carve pumpkins, which was an Irish tradition of carving turnips to ward off evil spirits, such as Stingy Jack. He was a trickster who tricked the Devil into promising he would never collect his soul.
So, when he died he wandered between Heaven and Hell with his favorite food, a turnip that he had hollowed out to light his way. Young women believed they could use witchcraft to find potential lovers using string or mirrors. Eventually, the holiday became less about harvest or supernatural things and became a family holiday.
This lead to our communities who would party and trick or treat together; however, because adults were involved, "tricking" was serious and had a lot to with vandalism. People would avoid this by giving out treats. Around the 1950's, the holiday became directed towards young, which put an end mostly to vandalism.
And, that's how we came to have the holiday we have today. Obviously, today Halloween is associated with numerous different beliefs. Halloween has inspired many tales, such as "Sleepy Hollow" and influences media heavily with the horror genre. The holiday is celebrated in many different ways throughout the world. Some go tricking or treating, while others go to haunted houses. Some plan games and plan activities, while others stay in watching old horror movies.
Many partake in rituals involving their religion. My favorite part of Halloween is the horror and myth. I love visiting graveyards and telling ancient tales. But, I personally do all of the above and that's what makes Halloween so amazing. Anyone can celebrate it in any way. Halloween is a time of chill autumn air and spooky stories and community. Out of all the holidays, I believe Halloween is the only that truly brings people together.