For years and years, many have practiced the celebration of Halloween. The tradition of trick or treating, costume parties, carving Jack o’ Lanterns, haunted houses, bonfires, apple bobbing, and tales of ghost and ghouls are all associated with this popular holiday. The excitement of this night that comes once a year has a lot of history behind it as to why we celebrate this night of dark thrills.
The name Halloween is said to be short for All Hallows’ Evening or Allhalloween or All Saints Eve and was dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints and anyone who is a deceased believer. There were festivals influenced by Celtic-speaking countries and linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain. The Samhain festival comes from the old Irish and means “summer’s end” in Gaelic culture and marked the beginning of winter and the darker half of the year. Also according to many scholars, it is believed that All Hallows Eve is a Christian influenced holiday with possible pagan roots.
Ancient Gaelics believed that on October 31st, boundaries between the worlds of the living and of the dead started to overlap and the deceased would come back from their graves and cause havoc such as sickness and damage to their crops. With this belief, the people would begin to dress up in costume to mimic or appease the evil spirits associated with the rise of the deceased.
Common activities that we see today, such as bonfires, date back to these times and were used to get rid of insects that would attract bats into town or to use the flames, smoke and ashes as protective and cleansing powers.. The fun activity of carving jack o’ lanterns was a practice of the Gaels to scare off evil spirits by the carvings of scary faces to place on door steps.
With the tradition of Halloween dating back as early as the 1500 in western countries, the holiday did not reach the United States until the early 1900s. The practice of Halloween was rarely documented in the Americas due to many origins of the tradition. First documentation of the rituals of Halloween in the United States was said to begin in 1911 near the northern border of New York in Kingston, Ontario, where it was reported that children would go from door to door, street guising, between the hours of 6 and 7 p.m., visiting neighbors and local shops to be rewarded with things such as nuts and candy in trade of songs and rhymes. In states such as Iowa, Ohio, and Massachusetts trick or treating is known and designated as Beggars Night.
With many customs of Halloween is carried on from some religious practice and background. ‘Play Parties’ or as we call today costume parties, dates back to colonial times here in America where people would gather dressed up as someone other than themselves. At these play parties, things such a story would be told of the misfortune of others, of the dead, and singing and dancing.
In the mid-1800s when a new wave of immigrants arrived. The celebration of Halloween was popularized. In 1846, many people of the Irish and English decent began to dress up as well on the holiday and go from door to door asking for money and food. During this generation, Halloween lost its heavy religious ties and became more of a fun and family centered tradition.
With the help of soft media, it was encouraged for parents to get their families involved in the festivities. Carnivals and town festivals became a fun tradition of arts and entertainment. With costumes, dancing, games and music, a town get-together was common. Here people would joke about the older traditions of ghost stories, pranks, and witchcraft previously related to the holiday.
Today, we still see and celebrate the traditions of this old holiday that stretches back in time. Common things such as children dressing up and trick or treating to college parties of students celebrating the foretold spooky night, there is history in everything we do and partake in year after year.
So this year, while you party or choose to celebrate this Halloween, just remember the history behind all the tricks and trades of All Hallows Eve.