What do you think of when you hear the word Halloween? Eating an endless amount of treats, playing scary pranks, or carving giant pumpkins may pop into your mind. October 31 brings a day full of costumes and trick-or-treating. But why do we celebrate Halloween? This spooky holiday dates far back and has changed quite a bit over the years.
October 31 was originally called “All Hallows’ Eve” and was later shortened to one word, Halloween. The celebration of Halloween started about 2,000 years ago with the ancient Celtic festival, Samhain, meaning “summer’s end” in Gaelic. Samhain was the end of harvest, which signified the coming of winter. Initially, the festival was celebrated in Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France. The Celts’ New Year would begin on November 1. For this reason, they believed the worlds between the dead and the living became crossed right before the New Year. Celts honored the dead by lighting bonfires, wearing costumes to hide from the bad spirits, and carving gourds to make lanterns.
Halloween spread to the U.S. by Irish immigrants who left Europe because of the Potato Famine. The holiday became a time for telling ghost stories and doing pranks. In the 1900s, Halloween quickly became a day for vandalism and mischief among kids. To fix this problem, the trend of trick-or-treating was introduced. Families could avoid being tricked and pranked by offering candy to kids.
Trick-or-treating has its roots from when the poor would disguise themselves and go door-to-door asking for food or money in exchange for prayers. This practice was often referred to as “guising” or “souling.” Children adopted the tradition and began dressing up in costumes and singing songs to receive offerings. Throughout the mid-1900s, many different gifts were given but candy slowly became the most prominent Halloween treat in the ‘70s.
Today, Halloween has become less about celebrating the end of summer and more about costumes and candy. Whether you’re trick-or-treating or going to a costume party, now you know the background on why Halloween became so popular. Get out your best costume and a bowl of candy because October 31 is coming up soon!