As an Indian-American, I’ve grown accustomed to celebrating my own Hindu/Indian culture, such as Diwali, while also celebrating the more “American” holidays such as Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Halloween. While the origins of Thanksgiving and Christmas are often taught in school or spoken about frequently, I’d never really understood the true origins and purpose behind Halloween until I recently took it upon myself to learn about it.
The celebration of Halloween can be traced back to the Celtic pagan festival known as Samhain, which marked the ending of the harvest season and the beginning of the winter season. This was essentially a Celtic New Year celebration, where people gathered in order to work on stocking up supplies to last through the winter and dispose of bones in fires. The night before was referred to as “Hallow’s Eve” and later “Halloween.”
At that point, Halloween was only celebrated in Europe. In the late 1800s, however, Halloween came to America with the influx of immigrants fleeing Ireland due to the Irish Potato Famine, which helped make Halloween more popular in the United States. Inspired by the Europeans, Americans followed their traditions, dressed up and went around asking for food or money. Eventually, Halloween became more about community and togetherness and less about the religious and cultural sentiments that it was originally rooted in.
As such, in the early to mid-1900s, many communities held Halloween parties, parades, and other events. By the 1950s, trick-or-treating became increasingly popular, and thus an American tradition and holiday was established. This popularity has only continued to grow, and now Halloween is the second-largest commercial holiday, after Christmas.
Our love for Halloween may be based mainly on our love for dressing up, going out, and getting candy, but it’s important to consider the historical background to further appreciate this fun, American holiday! I hope you all stay safe and have fun this spooky season!