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Halloween History Filled with Surprises

by Audrey McClatchie

There’s only one day a year where you’ll see witches, princesses, and monsters roaming the streets at night. Year after year, Halloween is celebrated by kids and adults. But how did it begin?

“Wasn’t it in Mexico?” junior Jordan Yingling guessed.

[2] Over 2,000 years ago, Halloween began with the Celts in what is now Ireland. Of course, Halloween didn’t become the name until the 1700’s. It originally began as the “Celtic Festival of Samhain,” a day when it was believed that ghosts of the dead returned to earth, causing trouble.

Junior Jackson Larimore expressed, “I feel like back then it was probably more scary, and not fun.”

However, the traditions of Halloween nowadays are surprisingly similar to the Celts: parades, bonfires, and costumes.

When the Roman empire conquered Celtic Territory in the first century A.D, each culture’s tradition’s combined for the death celebratory festivals.

Hundreds of years later, the Pope in Rome shifted the focus of the holiday to honoring martyrs and saints of the church. The new “All Souls Day” was similar to Samhain, but more church oriented.

The special day was similar in festivities, with the parades and costumes, but had a religious purpose. The holiday was also called “All-Hallows” which eventually became Halloween.

In colonial New England America, the idea of Halloween was limited because of the strict Protestant beliefs in the area. However, as ethnicity began to intertwine, a distinct American version of Halloween emerged. Celebration of harvest brought about “play parties” where people would sing, dance, tell ghost stories, and tell each other’s fortunes.

“I think Halloween is more festive [now], because it’s a time of the year where people have fun,” said junior Vanessa Parson. It is true, religion and death centered celebrations from centuries ago have evolved into light hearted pranks and candy binging.

With the flood of immigration in the 1800’s, the Irish traditions for trick or treating were brought with them. [3] “Guising” was their beginning of trick or treating, as youth would dress up in costumes and perform a song, recitation, joke, or other “trick” to receive a treat, (nuts, fruit, coins) in return.

In America, the “trick” part was sometimes taken too seriously, leading to serious vandalizing and damaging pranks costing the United States thousands of dollars. Still, the modern trick or treating we know today was born, as kids would dress up and go door to door receiving candy.

The Great Depression and World War II created a pause in this tradition, because of sugar rationing. However, once the economy stabilized, Halloween was in full swing.

Now, Halloween is the third most popular holiday in the United States. Traditions have shifted over the years, but our activities today still connect to the past.

“Trick or treating, horror movies, and I think of decorating and just scaring people,” stated sophomore Maddie Lancaster. All of the above are modern culturized activities that have created our present Halloween.

From all over the world, through religion, death, wars and tricks, Halloween has come a long way.


[1] http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/whats-on/whats-on-news/celebrate-halloween-how-name-10174402

[2] http://www.history.com/topics/halloween/history-of-halloween

[3] http://www.history.com/topics/halloween/history-of-trick-or-treating