Features

The origin of Halloween 

SAN JOSE, CALIF. – Though Halloween is an “American” holiday, it originated in Ireland with the people of the Celts, who lived for almost 2,000 and are the largest ancient group in Europe. A Celtic tradition called Samhain was the root of Halloween. Samhain was the New Year celebration that took place on November 1st. This day marked the end of summer and the start of winter, a dark and cold time often linked with death and the upbringing of spirits. Celts believed the night of October 31 would fray the lines between the living world and the world of the dead. So, to protect the living world, the Celts celebrated Samhain, believing that doing so would keep the spirits at bay. 

During the 18th century, Pope Gregory III named November 1st All Saints’ Day. All Saints’ Day eventually incorporated the traditions of Samhain, and October 31st was named All-Hallows Eve. “Hallows” means “spirits.” The Celts believed that awakening the hallows would help Dardis, a Celtic priest, predict the future. To celebrate, the Celtics would dress up in costumes of animal heads and skin and burn crops and animals in an attempt to appease the Celtic Gods. They would light large bonfires in hopes of predicting each other’s future. The sacred bonfire was relit after the ceremonies ended to bring warmth into the upcoming weather. 

When the Romans conquered the Celts in 43 A.D, their traditions mixed with the celebration of Samhain. Feralia was a day in late October to remember the passing of the dead, and Pomona was a day to celebrate the Roman Goddess of Fruit and Trees. The symbol for Pomona is an apple, where the tradition of bobbing for apples originated. 

As Europeans migrated to the states, they brought All Hallows-Eve with them. Halloween was only popular in Maryland in colonial times. As time passed, Americans adopted their version of the holiday; pulling pranks and wearing Halloween costumes all became a part of American Halloween culture. Trick or treating became popular after people had enough of the pranks, switching from cruel jokes to sweet treats. Throughout time as more migrants flooded the states, Halloween has become tremendously more popular all around the 50 states.  

The Bay Area has Winchester Mystery House and Fearoverload, which are popular Halloween activities. We used to have Halloween Haunt in Great America, which sadly wasnt open this year but used to be a big hotspot. San Francisco always has fun activities during the Halloween season that run until winter, and the Pumpkin patches near Gilroy and morgan hills are some more family-friendly activities. For me, craving pumpkins and going to the Haunt were my highlights of October. 

I’ve always wondered how Halloween became the phenomenon that it is now. Where did the idea of dressing up as our favorite movie characters come from or what was the meaning behind the horror and ghost that surrounds Halloween? While researching this article, I answered many of my questions; hopefully, this answered yours, too. 

Fun facts: 

  • Americans spent around $500 million on costumes for pets in 2021, nearly double the amount they paid in 2010
  • ¼ of candy sold in America is bought during Halloween.
Halloween themes Jack-o’-lanterns displayed out at night
Picture credit: Unknown

Categories: Features

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