The type of Halloween we observe today is much different than when it started. Now it is primarily a night of fun for kids, this autumn holiday is actually an amalgam of old customs remembering the dead and honoring the spirit world, with a bit of naughtiness added in. Want to know about the history of Halloween? Keep reading.
What is the history of Halloween?
You may have questioned yourself when it all started and what the history of Halloween is, and why we celebrate it. Unlike many other festivals, there is no big important spiritual or historical event that this holiday commemorates. So why do we observe Halloween? And how did Halloween traditions become traditions in the first place?
Well, although it’s a worldly celebration today, the story of Halloween has origins in early religious and spiritual beliefs that have grown over time. The initial Halloween, dating back to early times, was a pagan festival called Samhain (pronounced “sow-win”).
The early Celts marked this festival right around the end of October into early November (sound familiar?) because it was halfway between the fall equinox and the winter solstice. The idea of the festival was to embrace the harvest period as well as the “dark half” of the year.
Another element included memorizing deceased ancestors and presenting offerings to departed souls; the celebrants thought that the border between the worlds of the living and the dead was particularly limited during this time. Again, we observe this attraction in today’s Halloween customs and figures like ghosts, zombies, and Ouija boards.
As the impact of Catholicism developed, the Catholic church pinched several pagan celebrations like Samhain to make them religion-friendly. The Catholic All Saints’ Day, which commemorates saints and martyrs, falls on November 1, and All Souls’ Day, which sanctifies the trustworthy deceased, is November 2—two holidays that have to do with death and the afterlife. The night before All Saints’ Day was named All Hallow’s Eve (“hallow” meaning holy), which transformed into “Halloween.” The account of Halloween records back centuries, and its roots aren’t all about collecting candy.
How Halloween was Celebrated in Ancient Times?
100 BC: Ancient Celts commemorate Samhain with fires, feasts, and offerings to the souls of the deceased.
700s: During the Middle Ages, the Catholic power expands to pagan celebrations like Samhain. Pope Gregory III named November 1 All Saints’ Day.
1000 AD: The Church renown November 2 All Souls’ Day; October 31 results into All Hallows’ Eve, forming a three-night spiritual ceremony in Europe.
The 1800s: Irish and Scottish emigrants move to the United States, bringing the ancestors of many of the Halloween rituals we know and enjoy today.
The early 1900s: Halloween grows popular for the youthful group, with high schools and rotary clubs throwing parties.
The 1930s: The Great Depression destroys the United States and Halloween festivities take a dip; “celebrations” frequently come in the form of harmful pranks.
The 1950s: Suburbanization and the conclusion of WWII sugar rations cause candy production, particularly for Halloween, to blow up; trick-or-treating as we know it today starts to emerge.
2019: Halloween in its latest form, only Americans spend an average of $2.6 billion on Halloween candy!