Halloween’s Origin Story

By Nicholas Vogt

Halloween: the time of the year when children dress up as ghosts and ghouls and parade in the neighborhood in order to collect as much candy as possible and stuff their faces for the coming weeks. A time to just have fun with your family and friends for one night.

We know today that Halloween is celebrated on October 31 as a day to celebrate (even though it’s not actually a holiday) but how much do we really know about this ghastly day?

Halloween does have parallels with Mexico’s Day of the Dead in that both are celebrated on October 31 and both have children dressing up. However, Dia de los Muertos (as it’s called in Mexico) has a deeper meaning with it also being celebrated by the Catholics on All Saints Day and lasting three days as opposed to one, as is the case with Halloween. Kids dressing up also has deeper meaning with the costumes symbolizing the deceased and the entire celebration being used to remember the dearly departed.

Now parallels are nice and all but the true question here is, “Where did Halloween come from?”

The story is quite interesting, actually. It is believed to have originated from the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, a festival where people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts and spirits. All Saints Day, created by Pope Gregory lll in the eighth century, has its roots here as well — he declared to have a day to celebrate all saints and martyrs. Two thousand years ago, the Celts who lived in what is now Ireland celebrated their new year on November 1, the day when summer ended and the frigid winter began. They associated this time of the year with death due to how harsh the winters were, killing their crops and people as well. They believed that the night before the new year began, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became weaker.

On October 31 the Celts would celebrate Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts would return to the land of the living. They sacrificed crops and animals during huge ceremonial bonfires in order to appease the ghosts and bring them out. They wanted the ghosts to return to the land of the living because the Celtics believed that the Druids (Celtic priests) were able to predict their futures much more accurately with the presence of ghosts around. During the ceremony, the Celtics would wear animal furs and heads as costumes and tell each other their fortunes. As time went on and the Celtics were conquered by the Roman Empire, and with the Pope adding more to the celebration, the festival became a day that was celebrated every year.

During the 1800s, when America was being flooded by an incredible amount of immigrants (primarily Irish due to the potato famine ravaging their country), they were presented with a plethora of new ideas and concepts. Halloween came about at this time when the Irish migrated over. They would celebrate with costumes and because many of them frequently went door-to-door asking for food and resources due to the famine the Americans emulated this and soon after, adopted this. From then on Halloween came to be a day celebrated by many from around the world and the concept can be easily interpreted by its unusual origin and history.

But regardless of what you call it or how you celebrate it, have a wonderful and spooktastic day!


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