The History of Halloween
Every year on October 31, many people throughout the world celebrate Halloween. Halloween is a time of celebration and superstition depending on how what group of people is celebrating it and where it is celebrated. In the United States, Halloween is usually celebrated by children dressing in a variety of costumes and going door-to-door in their neighborhoods collecting candy and other treats.
The origins of Halloween are over 2,000 years old dating back to an ancient Celtic festival called Samhain. The Celts are a group of people who lived in an area that today is Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France. The Samhain festival was a celebration of their New Year which began on November 1st, which marked the beginning of the winter season. A time of year that was dark and cold, as well as associated with human death.
The Celts thought the world of life and death merged together. They believed on the night of October 31 the ghosts of the dead would return to the earth and cause trouble as well as damage to crops. They also believed the spirits would help their priests, called Druids, make predictions about the future. Many of the Celts believed in the superstitions and the predictions would bring them comfort in the otherwise ominous winter.
The Druids would build bonfires. The people would bring crops and animals as sacrifices to their gods, and during the celebration costumes of animal heads and skins would be worn by the celebrants. The bonfires would help protect them during the winter months.
The Roman Empire in 43 A.D. then defeated and conquered most of the Celtic's land and two of the celebrations of the Romans were combined with the Celtic celebration of Samhain. One of the celebrations was called Feralia, taking place in late October, which honored the passing of the dead. A second one was a day to honor the Roman goddess of fruit and trees, Pomona. The bobbing of apples, which is often associated with Halloween, may have had its origins to the goddess because the apple was the symbol of Pomona.
In May of 609 A.D., Pope Boniface IV created the feast of All Martyrs Day on May 13, honoring those who died for the faith, and later Pope Gregory changed the feast day to November 1. During the years that followed, the influence of Christianity spread into the Celtic lands and their celebrations, and in 1000 A.D., the church made November 2 All Soul's Day, a day to honor the dead. The day was celebrated with bonfires, parades, and people would wear costumes dressed as saints, angels, and devils.
Later, an All Saints Day celebration began to be called All-hallows or All-hallowmas, and the night before as All-hallows Eve, which eventually led to the holiday which is now called Halloween. It became common to celebrate it first in Maryland and the southern colonials, but was limited in the New England colonies due to the Protestant beliefs against the celebration.
The different beliefs of religions and past traditions came together, which included harvest celebrations and other autumn festivals and events. The celebrations included sharing stories of the dead, fortune-telling, dancing and singing. There was also mischief and other activities commonly associated with Halloween.
The Halloween of today became more apparent during the mid-1800s when millions of Irish immigrants came to America. Merging the English and Irish traditions, many Americans began to dress up and popularized the celebration of Halloween. They would go from house to house asking for food or money leading to the 'trick-or-treat' tradition. Halloween has many origins which has led to many cultures and countries uniquely celebrating the day based on a variety of traditions.
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