The Haunted History of Halloween

In Features by Makenzi CamanilloLeave a Comment

Haunted houses, pumpkin patches, trick or treating, and apple bobbing, these are all things that come with the favorited holiday called Halloween. There’s no denying that on the 1st of October people are googling ideas for Halloween costumes or outside for hours decorating their house for the spooky season. There are all of these traditions, and stereotypes of what Halloween is. But where did these traditions come from? What inspired the holiday of Halloween?

Samhain (sow-in)

2000 years ago a group of people called Celts lived in what is now modern day Ireland, the United Kingdom, and Northern France. The Celts celebrated the New Year on November 1st rather than the January 1st . The month of November represented the end of summer and the beginning of a long and cold winter; which was associated with death.

Samhain was a festival celebrated on October 31st. It was believed that this date was the night the boundary wall between the living and the dead weakened and allowed spirits to return to Earth. The visitation of these spirits had it’s pros and it’s cons to the community as the Celts believed the spirits allowed Druids (priests) to predict the future, but they also damaged the crops.

The celebration consisted of huge bonfires for sacrifices of animals and crops to the deities. The heads and skins of animals were worn as costumes. At the end of the celebration the hearth fires were re-lit from the sacred bonfire for protection from the coming cold.

The celebration of Samhain became known as All-Hallows Eve (and eventually Halloween) in the 9th century when All Saints Day and All Souls day, which were celebrated November 1st and 2nd, became important to the church. These two celebrations were very similar to Samhain with bonfires and costumes.

The Roman Influence

The Roman Empire had conquered the Celtic territory by 43 B.C. and while the celebration of Samhain had continued, the Roman culture made a few renovations. The Romans added two factors to the festival so it would be considered a Roman celebration and not a Celtic holiday. The Feralia was for honoring the dead and their lives, and they also honored the Roman goddess of fruit and trees, Pomona. Perhaps Pomona’s celebration inspired the tradition of apple bobbing.

Diversity of Halloween

In the beginning of the New World Halloween was mainly popular in southern colonies and Maryland because of the Protestant beliefs in the New England colonies. Upon all of the different beliefs from the colonies merging together, the customs created the ‘American Halloween.’ These mixed customs created the traditions of parties, where people would tell stories of the dead, share fortunes, and dance and sing. The tradition of trick or treating came from the English and Irish custom when people would dress up and go door to door asking for food and money. Maybe instead of candy it should be money that people put outside their homes in bowls.

Spooky Season Today

Today there are many more traditions for Halloween than just parties, bonfires, and trick or treating. Now there’s pumpkin patches and pumpkin carving, trick or treating, costume contests, and haunted houses. And don’t forget about the pumpkin spice lattes. While there are differences between Halloween now and when it was Samhain one thing is for sure the same: the celebration of Halloween is enjoyable for everyone!

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