Halloween History

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In America, we celebrate many holidays. Some new, some old, some well known, and some barely known at all. Whatever the case may be, it is always important to understand the origin of the holiday and what it really means.  

On November 1st, around 2000 years ago, a tribe named the Celts celebrated their new year. The Celts inhabited the land that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France. They believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the living and the dead would disappear, allowing the dead to walk among the living. This was called Samhain. On Samhain, many rituals were performed, some included burning crops and animals, wearing costumes, dancing around a bonfire, and attempting to tell each other’s fortunes. The crops and animals that were burned symbolized gifts offered to the dead, and people would wear a costume so spirits would mistake them for other spirits.

   As a tribute to Samhain, on May 13th, 609, Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Pantheon in Rome in honor of all Christian martyrs. Pope Gregory III later expanded the festival to include all saints as well as all martyrs and moved the festival from May 13th to November 1st. Then, in 1000, the church made November 2nd All Souls’ Day, to honor all the dead. During this time period, the origin of trick or treating began. At the All Souls Day parade in England, poor citizens would beg the wealthy for food and money in exchange for souls-day cakes and prayers for their dead relatives.

Halloween was brought to America when people from Ireland immigrated in order to escape the potato famine. It got its name after people started calling the day before All Saints Day All Hallows Day, which was later abbreviated to All Hallows, then the night before started being called Hallows Eve, and eventually Halloween. Although Halloween originated many years ago, many of the same “rituals” from All Saints Day and Samhain are performed today. People still dress up and continue to go around asking for things, but these days it’s more children asking for candy than adults begging for money. Throughout history, interesting superstitions related to women finding their husbands started to arise. From throwing apple peels over the shoulder and hoping they would land to spell out the initials of their future husband, to staring in bowls of egg yolk to try to learn about their romantic futures, single ladies everywhere prayed that by next Halloween they would be married.

So, next time you go trick or treating with a bunch of your friends or go out to someone’s house for a Halloween party, remember that this holiday has come a long way throughout the years in order for it to be celebrated the way it is today.


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