The history of Halloween

Most people know that Halloween falls on Oct. 31 of every year. The season is celebrated with trick or treating, cute (or scandalous) costumes, candy, scary movies and haunted houses. What most people don’t completely understand, however, is the history behind this haunted holiday.

According to History, Halloween’s origins date back to the Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in modern day Ireland, with their festival of Samhain. Their new year, celebrated on Nov. 1, marked the end of summer and the start of the cold, dark winter— which was greatly associated with human death in ancient times.

By 43 A.D., the Roman Empire had invaded and overtaken most of the Celtic demographic. Feralia and the day to honor Pomona, two Roman holidays, were combined with Samhain. Feralia was a day in late October celebrated to honor the passing of the dead. Additionally, the day to honor Pomona, the Roman Goddess of fruit and trees, was likely where the tradition of bobbing for apples came from.

In 1000 A.D., the Catholic church declared Nov. 2 All Souls’ Day, invented to honor the dead. Many believe this was an attempt to replace the Celtic festival with a church-approved replacement holiday. It was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with bonfires, dressing up as spirits like angels and devils and throwing parades.

In New England, the concept of everything Halloween was very much frowned upon, due to rigid religious belief systems. However, soon after different ethnic groups began to merge, an Americanized version of Halloween, featuring ghost stories, harvest celebrations, mischief-making and other activities. Later, after more Irish fled to America to escape the potato famine, the new population helped spread the idea of Halloween throughout the nation.

The idea of trick-or-treating came from both Irish and English traditions of dressing up and going door to door. By the late 1800’s, Americans attempted to make the holiday friendlier, and more of a harmless celebration than one of ghosts and dangerous spirits. Since then, the modern Halloween we know has come into full bloom, with parties, costumes, neighborly fun and more.

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