Halloween is a holiday observed annually on October 31st and has become the favorite holiday of many people. Even with as popular as it is, just as many people do not know its origins. Halloween began as an ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain that let participants ward off ghosts by donning costumes and lighting bonfires. Then, it ended up blending with the Catholic All Saints day, and from there, it only continued to evolve. A lot of the traditions such as carving pumpkins, trick or treating, eating sweets and putting on costumes came to be only recently.
The Celtic festival of Samhain originated around 2,000 years ago when people celebrated their new year on November 1st. This day was the last day of summer and the ensuing harvest, and it was the first day of winter. Winter was associated with the idea of death back then, and they believed that on October 31st, the veil between the worlds of the dead and the living was lifted, which allowed ghosts to come back to Earth.
Besides the harm they thought spirits might do, they also thought that Druids were able to more easily make predictions during this night, a tradition that helped provide advice and comfort to get communities through the winter. They would dress up in animal skins and heads to tell one another’s fortunes.
By 43 AD, most of the Celtic territory had been conquered by the Roman Empire. Traditions of both the Celts and the Romans were brought together, mixing Samhain with All Saints Day traditions. All Saints Day was a time to honor martyrs and saints and was observed as a feast. When the land was conquered, the feast was moved to November 1st, and it sometimes went by the name All-Hallows. This meant that October 31st was known as All-Hallows eve, and sooner or later, Halloween.
Halloween eventually came to America but was mostly limited to only colonial New England due to the Protestant beliefs there. These traditions eventually ended up mixing with Native American traditions as well, which brought out an American version of Halloween. The first traditions included parties that celebrated the harvest, sharing stories of the dead, singing and dancing. During the 19th century when the Irish came over, Halloween became more popular on a national level.
Taking from both English and Irish traditions, Americans ended up going door to door in costume asking for money or food, which would eventually evolve into what we now know as trick or treat. As time went on, Halloween became more of a community and neighborly event where the parties were more focused on people instead of the original traditions. Because of the baby boom during the 1950s, Halloween began to be geared more toward children. Trick or treating involved candies and snacks, and Halloween parties and parades in the community began to become the main features.
Today, Halloween is one of America’s best-loved traditions. Behind Christmas, it is the most commercially successful holiday, with Americans spending roughly $6 billion annually to celebrate it. It may have gone through many transformations to get where it is today, but it has always been a beloved holiday and stays that way to this day.
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