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History of Halloween

Halloween began over 2,000 years ago and it certainly has evolved for the better over the years!

Origin of Halloween

A group of people called the Celts lived in Europe, specifically England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and northern France. The Celts worshipped more than one god, e.g., Samhain. They believed that this god called dead people (evil spirits) to walk on the earth every year on the 31st of October. As a result, they held a festival and built fires in the evening to warm the good spirits. They wore masks both to hide from the bad spirits and to scare them away.

The Celts celebrated first day of their new year on Nov. 1st. They held a festival and built huge bonfires to honor their sun god, Baal. The Romans who were neighbors to the Celts, also celebrated on November 1st; they honored the goddess, Pomona. To celebrate their good fortune they danced and played games. Eventually the Romans conquered the Celts and ruled over them for 400 years in France. As a result, the two groups celebrated their November 1st festival together.

Christianity developed in the 19th century and this group of people also celebrated on the 1st of November by honoring the lives of holy men and women. They referred to this festival as All Saints’ Day or All Hallows Day. The night before their festival was commonly referred to as All Hallow’s Eve which eventually became Halloween.

Halloween Trick-or-Treating

Trick-or–treating may have begun in either Ireland or England. Irish religious leaders dressed in costumes and went door-to-door asking for both food and money. Unfortunately, the leaders used coercion stating destruction would follow if people did not honor a powerful spirit called Muck Olla so out of fear the people oblige them. In England, children dressed in costumes and pleaded for cakes and treats for the ghosts and goblins. If the children did not receive a treat, they would deliver a trick of some sort, e.g., letting the animals out of the barn. In France, the children asked for flowers to decorate the churches and graves belonging to loved ones.

Many people from Europe migrated to North America and brought with them their customs. Today, Halloween is a mixture of these customs. Many people celebrate Halloween by wearing costumes and masks and attending parties. Every year, many of us go trick-or-treating and receive candy on the 31st of October 31st.

Source: Flanagan, Alice K. (2002). Halloween. Minneapolis, MN: Compass Point Books.

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