The history of Halloween

Halloween and the history behind it.

Anika Bates
Senior Reporter

*Information provided by Live Science online.

All Hallows Eve, Feast of the Dead, Samhain. All names refer to what we in North America often call the night on October 31 when all the children come out looking for treats in the variety of costumes – Halloween.

Though Halloween is often commercialized as a day that centers on candy and costumes, this holiday has a unique history that dates back almost 2,000 years. The original ‘Halloween’ was named ‘Samhain’ and was a Gaelic festival. ‘Samhain’ means ‘summer’s end’ and was a chance for the people to come together at the end of the harvest and prepare for the winter months.

In his book, “Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night,” Nicholas Rogers said, “there is no hard evidence that Samhain was specifically devoted to the dead or to ancestor worship, despite claims to the contrary by some American folklorists, some of whom have presumed that the feast was devoted to Saman, the god of the dead.”

According to Live Science online, Saman did not so much represent life or death, but represented the changing of seasons, hence the name Samhain.

The tradition of dressing up also came from the Samhain ceremonies where the tribal leaders would dress in animal skins to commemorate the ceremony. This later influenced the Northern American tradition of dressing up in costumes.

Closely related to the Gaelic ancestry were the Irish immigrants that came to North America in the nineteenth century, due to the potato famines in Ireland. This is believed to be where the tradition of the Northern American Halloween came from.

Though this holiday originally stuck to the children of the Irish immigrants, it was soon embraced by the culture at large. Thus was the birth of Halloween in North America. Though it was moving slowly, other communities began to embrace the holiday as it spread across the country.

Many of the supernatural conspiracies that are associated with Halloween come from the old Irish belief that spirits of the dead could walk across and haunt the grounds they died on. This prompted the popularity of witch and ghost costumes that are still active today.

The trick-or-treat method came about in the 1920s and 1930s when the tricks that adolescents began to play on their communities became more serious and harmful. To make the children more compliant and calm, parents and community members began passing out candy to distract from the prank pulling.

All these old traditions and rituals conclude to make up the day that is known in the United States as Halloween.


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The history of Halloween

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