Halloween is a holiday observed on October 31; in 2022, it will fall on a Monday. The custom has its roots in the ancient Celtic holiday of Samhain when is halloween people would dress up and build bonfires to fend off ghosts. Pope Gregory III established November 1 as a day to celebrate all saints in the ninth century. Soon, elements of Samhain’s customs were absorbed into All Saints Day. Before Halloween, the previous evening was referred to as All Hallows Eve. Halloween has changed throughout the years to become a day filled with festivities like trick-or-treating, carving jack-o-lanterns, festive get-togethers, dressing up, and enjoying sweets.
The History of Halloween
Halloween’s roots can be found in the historic Samhain festival of the Celts (pronounced sow-in). On November 1, the Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in a region that is today primarily Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France, celebrated the beginning of their new year.
On this day, summer, harvest, and the gloomy, chilly winter, sometimes a season of fatalities for people, came to an end. The night before the new year, according to the Celts, the line separating the living from the dead becomes hazy. On the evening of October 31, they observed Samhain, a time when is halloween it was thought that the spirits of the dead made a comeback to the planet.
Celts believed that the presence of supernatural spirits made it simpler for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make future forecasts, in addition to causing difficulties and harming harvests. These forecasts served as a significant source of solace for a people wholly reliant on the unpredictable natural environment during the long, dark winter.
Druids constructed enormous sacred bonfires to remind of the occasion, and people gathered around them to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic gods. The Celts attempted to tell one other’s fortunes while dressing up in costumes made typically of animal heads and skins.
They re-lit their hearth fires, which they had put out earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire after the festival was done to help safeguard them during the upcoming winter.
Did you realize it? Halloween purchases account for 25% of all sweets sold annually in the U.S.
The Roman Empire had overrun most Celtic lands by the year 43. Throughout their 400-year reign over the Celtic nations, two Roman-inspired holidays were merged with the customary holiday of Samhain.
The first was Feralia, a Roman rite in late October to remember the deceased. Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees, was celebrated on the second day. The apple is Pomona’s emblem. Therefore the fact that this celebration was included in Samhain probably explains why we still bop for apples on Halloween today.
Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Pantheon in Rome to all Christian martyrs on May 13, A.D. 609, and the Western church adopted the Catholic feast of All Martyrs Day. Later, Pope Gregory III changed the celebration date from May 13 to November 1 and broadened the event to include all martyrs and saints.
By the ninth century, Christianity’s influence had reached the Celtic nations, where it progressively assimilated with and replaced pre-Christian Celtic practices. The church declared November 2, All Souls’ Day in the year 1000, as a day to remember the deceased. Today, it is generally accepted that the church tried to replace the Celtic feast of the dead with a comparable church-approved celebration.
Like Samhain, All Souls Day was observed with large bonfires and parades and dressed as saints, angels, and demons. The holiday known as All Saints’ Day is also known as All-Hallows or All-Hallowmas (from the Middle English word all-holowmesse, which means All Saints’ Day), and the night before it, known as Samhain in the Celtic faith, started to be termed All-Hallows Eve and then, eventually, Halloween.
America welcomes Halloween
Colonial New England’s strict Protestant religious beliefs severely restricted the Halloween festivities. In Maryland and the southern colonies, Halloween was considerably more common.
A uniquely American interpretation of Halloween started to take shape when is halloween the beliefs and traditions of various European ethnic groups and American Indians converged. The first harvest festivities were “play parties,” open-air gatherings. Neighbors would sing and dance while exchanging ghost stories and fortunes.
Did you realize it? More individuals are purchasing pet costumes. In 2021, Americans spent about $500 million on pet costumes, more than double as much as they did in 2010.
The telling of ghost stories and various forms of mischief was also a part of the traditional Halloween celebrations in the past. Annual autumn celebrations were widespread by the middle of the 19th century, although Halloween was not yet observed nationwide.
America experienced a massive influx of new immigrants in the second half of the 19th century. These new arrivals—particularly the countless Irish who had fled the Irish Potato Famine—helped make Halloween a national holiday.
By adopting European customs, Americans started dressing up for Halloween and knocking on doors to ask for food or money. This practice eventually developed into the modern-day “trick-or-treat” custom. Young girls thought that by performing tricks with yarn, apple parings, or mirrors on Halloween, they could predict their future husbands’ names or looks.
In the late 1800s, there was a movement in America to change Halloween from a celebration of ghosts, tricks, and witchcraft to more about neighborhood and community gatherings. Halloween parties for kids and adults were the most popular way to commemorate the holiday at the turn of the century. Parties with games, seasonal delicacies, and festive attire.
Newspapers and local authorities urged parents to remove anything “scary” or “grotesque” from Halloween celebrations. By the start of the twentieth century, Halloween had mostly lost its superstitious and religious connotations due to these efforts.
By the 1920s and 1930s, Halloween had evolved into a secular but neighborhood-focused celebration, with parades and Halloween parties serving as the main attractions. Vandalism started to affect some events in many areas at this time, despite the best efforts of many schools and towns.
By the 1950s, local officials had successfully reduced vandalism, and Halloween had changed into a celebration mostly for kids. The birth boom of the 1950s produced many small children. Thus celebrations migrated from town municipal buildings to classrooms and homes where they could be accommodated more readily.
Trick-or-treating, a centuries-old custom, was also revived between 1920 and 1950. Trick-or-treating was a relatively cheap way for an entire neighborhood to participate in the Halloween holiday. Families may theoretically stop tricks from being played on them by giving the neighborhood kids little presents.
A fresh American custom was therefore established, and it has since flourished. With an estimated $6 billion in annual spending, Halloween is now the second-largest commercial holiday in the United States, behind Christmas.
In terms of box office success, spooky Halloween films have a long history of doing well. The “Halloween” franchise, based on the 1978 original picture directed by John Carpenter and starring Donald Pleasance, Nick Castle, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Tony Moran, is one example of a classic Halloween movie. In the movie “Halloween,” a young boy named Michael Myers kills his 17-year-old sister and is put in jail; however, on Halloween night, as a teenager, he escapes and searches for his old house and a new victim. 2018 saw the debut of a “Halloween” sequel starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Nick Castle. In 2021, “Halloween Kills,” the follow-up and twelve overall installments in the “Halloween” franchise, was released.
Halloween is regarded as a classic horror movie, even down to its eerie score, and it served as an inspiration for later well-known “slasher movies,” including “Scream,” “Nightmare on Elm Street,” and “Friday the 13.” “Hocus Pocus,” “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” “Beetlejuice,” and “It’s the Great Pumpkin; Charlie Brown” is a few further family-friendly Halloween films.
Soul Cakes and All Saints Day
Trick-or-treating on Halloween in America likely originated with early All Souls’ Day parades in England. Poor people would beg for food during the festivities, and in exchange for their vow to pray for the family’s deceased relatives, families would offer them treats called “soul cakes.”
The church promoted the distribution of soul cakes to replace the traditional custom of leaving food and wine out for wandering spirits. Children eventually adopted the custom of “going a-souling,” where they would visit the homes in their neighborhood and receive ale, food, and money.
Halloween costume wear is a custom with both European and Celtic roots. Winter in those days was an ominous and frightening season. Food supplies frequently ran low for the numerous people who were scared of the dark, and the few winter days were filled with continual anxiety.
People used to fear leaving their homes on Halloween since ghosts were thought to return to the physical world at that time. People would wear masks when is halloween they left their homes after dark so that the ghosts would believe them to be other ghosts to escape being recognized by these ghosts.
To deter spirits from trying to enter homes on Halloween, people used to leave bowls of food outside. This would appease the ghosts and keep them away.
Halloween Black Cats and Ghosts
Halloween has long been a mysterious, magical, and superstitious occasion. It started as a Celtic end-of-summer event when is halloween people felt particularly connected to their departed loved ones. They burned lights to aid loved ones in returning to the spirit realm, put gifts on doorsteps and by the side of the road, and set places at the dinner table for these amiable spirits.
The ghosts of Halloween today are frequently portrayed as more terrifying and evil, and our traditions and superstitions are also more frightful. We avoid going near black cats because they’ll curse us. This notion originated in the Middle Ages when is halloween many people thought witches disguised themselves as black cats to evade detection.
We make an effort to avoid using ladders as footholds. It’s possible that this superstition originated with the ancient Egyptians, who thought triangles were sacred (it also may have something to do with the fact that walking under a leaning ladder tends to be fairly unsafe). And especially around Halloween, we make an effort to avoid damaging mirrors, stepping on potholes, and spilling salt.
Matchmaking for Halloween and Unusual Rituals
But what about the Halloween customs and rituals that today’s trick-or-treaters have completely forgotten? Many of these outmoded rites have an emphasis on the present rather than the past and the living rather than the dead.
Many of them, in particular, dealt with encouraging young women to find their future spouses and telling them that they would eventually be married—hopefully by next Halloween. On Halloween night, a matchmaking cook in 18th-century Ireland may conceal a ring in her mashed potatoes, hoping the diner who found it would find true love.
In Scotland, matchmakers advised young women to name a hazelnut for each potential suitor before throwing the nuts into the flames. According to the legend, the nut that burned to ashes instead of popping or exploding symbolized the girl’s future husband. (In certain iterations of this myth, the reverse was true: The burning nut represented a fleeting love.)
Another legend claimed that a young woman would dream of her future spouse if she consumed a sugary mixture of walnuts, hazelnuts, and nutmeg before going to bed on Halloween night.
Young girls tried to predict their futures by peering at egg yolks floating in a bowl of water, tossing apple peels over their shoulders in the hopes that the peels would fall to the ground in the shape of their future husbands’ initials, holding candles in front of mirrors in darkened rooms, and looking over their shoulders for their husbands’ faces.
Other ceremonies featured more rivalry. Occasionally, the first partygoer to find a burr while searching for chestnuts would also be the first to get hitched. Others would have the first successful apple bobber come down the aisle.
Each of these Halloween superstitions depends on the benevolence of the same “spirits” whose presence the early Celts felt so deeply, whether we’re seeking love counsel or hoping to ward off seven years of bad luck.