Halloween History

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Halloween or in other words All Hallows’ Eve is a time for trick-or-treating, ghost stories, costumes, pumpkin carving, haunted houses, and etc. But as we enjoy ourselves on this festive holiday, the history of how it came to be doesn’t really come to mind. So let’s go back 2,000 years and work our way into the future.

It all started at an ancient pre-christian Celtic festival known as Samhain (pronounced “sah-win”). The festival was a celebration for the end of the harvest season in Gaelic culture. It was a time to stock up on supplies and prepare for winter. It was also rumored that the Gaels believed that on October 31st, the living and undead boundaries would overlap and the undead would come back to life and with them came havoc and sickness. During this time they would wear masks and costumes to appease and/or mimic the evil spirits.

Sadly Nicholas Rogers, a history professor at York University in Toronto and author of “Halloween: From Pagan Rituals To Party Night” (Oxford University Press, 2003) said “according to the ancient sagas, Samhain was the time when tribal people paid tribute to their conquerors and when the sidh (ancient mounds) might reveal the magnificent palaces of the gods of the underworld.” Which therefore means there is no hard evidence that Samhain was specifically devoted to the dead or ancestor worship.

Costumes and trick-or-treating go back to the practice of  “mumming”  and “guising”. Originally people would go door to door, asking for food.  This was known as “souling”  in Britain and Ireland. Earlier costumes were often woven out of straw. People would wear costumes to perform skits and plays.

The term “trick” in trick-or-treating was taken very seriously by the late 1800s. The pranks included tipping over outhouses, opening farmers’ gates, and egging houses. By the 1920s and 1930s, acts of vandalism got more serious. “Some people believe that because pranking was getting out of hand, parents and town leaders began to encourage dressing up and trick-or-treating as a safe alternative to doing pranks” Santonio says.

As for modern Halloween, Santonio, writing in Garland, 1996, noted that “ Halloween beliefs and customs were brought to North America with the earliest Irish immigrants, then by the great waves of Irish immigrants fleeing the famines of the first half of the nineteenth century, Known in the North American continent since colonial days, by the middle of the twentieth century Halloween has become largely a children’s holiday.”

Sources: http://www.livescience.com/40596-history-of halloween.html             http://www.halloweenhistory.org/

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