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A Brief History of Halloween

Have you ever wondered why there’s a day every year where you put on a costume, eat candy, and decorate with jack-o-lanterns, skeletons, and other spooky things? While you may have never even questioned why you do this every October 31st, the reasoning behind the holiday is actually very interesting. Thanks to the History Channel, I was able to sum things up for you.

According to history.com, Halloween actually began 2,000 years ago. However, it wasn’t called Halloween. It actually originated as the Celtic celebration of Samhain. Samhain was, like Halloween, celebrated the night of October 31st. However, for the Celtic people, this was the eve of the Celtic New Year. The people believed that during the night before the New Year, the living and the dead sort of became intermingled. Because of this belief, people would wear masks when they went out to protect themselves from ghosts. They believed that if a ghost saw them, they would be considered a fellow spirit. (history.com)


Fast-forward to 609 A.D, the Roman Empire had pretty much taken over the Celtic people and Pope Boniface IV turned November 1st into All Saints Day or All-Hallows. The Pope also created a holiday that was meant to honor the dead, All Souls’ Day, on November 2nd. Despite now having All Souls’ Day to remember the departed, people still kept some of the traditions of Samhain when celebrating All Saints Day. People also continued to celebrate the night of October 31st, which eventually became known as All-Hallows Eve, and then, as you can probably guess, Halloween. (history.com)

“But where did all the traditions regarding candy come from?” you may ask. Well history.com has an answer for that too. This well-known holiday tradition actually began in America. Americans got this idea, along with others, by borrowing from older European traditions. One such tradition consisted of poor people begging to be given food during All Souls’ Day celebrations. Families would hand the beggars pastries called “soul cakes” in exchange for their prayers for deceased family members. Americans took a twist on this tradition, as well as the tradition of leaving the house with a mask on, and started dressing up and going door to door to ask for food or money. This, obviously, was the start of trick-or-treating. (history.com)


The holiday, 2,000 years in the making, has changed and evolved into what most of us now look forward to every October 31st. Next time you’re watching Halloweentown, deciding on what costume to wear, or using the excuse “it’s Halloween” to stuff your face with candy, just remember that you’re actually taking part in years of culture and history. 

Source: http://www.history.com/topics/halloween/history-of-halloween

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