History of Halloween

There's more to its SCARY past than you think!

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Ms. Davis goes

Ms. Davis goes "all out" for her favorite holiday.

Ms. Davis goes "all out" for her favorite holiday.

Emma Mitchem, Staff writer/Editor

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Everyone knows the concept of Halloween, but how much do we actually know about it? Besides the candy, movies, and jack-o-lanterns, what is there to learn? Quite a lot, actually. There is much  that goes into the history and celebration of Halloween.

The practice of the holiday comes from Celtic Paganism in the British Isles during Samhain, the end of the harvest season. This was believed to be the time when the spirits of the dead could come out to haunt. The Celts would honor the ghosts by giving them treats, like food from the feast. Samhain was celebrated in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and parts of Britain.

The Celts believed that otherworldly spirits assisted the Druids and Celtic priests, making predictions about the future. They would build sacred bonfires and gather to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the deities they worshipped. During this celebration, they wore clothes made of animal heads and skins. They would then attempt to tell each other’s fortunes.

By 43 A.D., The Roman Empire had conquered Celtic territory. Roman festivities were combined with Samhain and other Celtic feasts and festivals. The Roman festivals that were added are Feralia and the Festival of Pomona. Feralia was a day in late October when the Romans traditionally commemorated the passing of their loved ones. The Festival of Pomona was a festival in honor of Pomona, the Roman Goddess of fruit and trees. This festival is most likely the reason we bob for apples.

In 609 A.D., Pope Boniface IV decided that the feast to be on May 13th  when he dedicated the Pantheon in Rome to Christian martyrs. Pope Gregory III later expanded this celebration to include all saints as well as martyrs, he also moved the celebration to November 1st.

During the 9th century, the influence of Christianity had come to the Celtic people. By 1000 A.D., the Church dedicated November 2nd as All Souls Day to honor the dead. It was believed that they tried to replace the holiday with church related one. All Souls Day was celebrated similarly to Samhain including bonfires, parades, and dressing up as saints, angels, and devils. This festival also went by All Hallows and All Hallowsmas with the night before the celebration was called All Hallows Eve. This was eventually shortened down to Halloween.

When Halloween came to America, celebration was limited to colonial New England because of the Protestant belief that was still prominent. At that time, Halloween was more popular in Maryland and other Southern colonies. Americanized versions of Halloween began to come forward. These celebrations included parties to celebrate the harvest, telling stories, telling each others fortune, dancing and singing. The festivities also consisted of telling ghost stories and making mischief.

By the mid 19th century, autumn festivals were common, but Halloween was not yet celebrated nationwide. Irish immigrants, who came to America during the Irish Potato Famine, helped in making the celebration of Halloween more popular in the whole country.

America adopted Irish and English traditions and began wearing costumes and asking for food. It is said that this ritual of dressing up is to scare away the ghosts and demons that come out on Halloween night. For many young women, however, Halloween was a night they could find out who their soulmate was based on a ritual using yarn, apples, or mirrors. In the late 1800’s, America decided to mold Halloween into a holiday for community and neighborhood get togethers

Today, Halloween is a very popular event that many people look forward to every year. If you’re a big fan of Halloween like I am, you even plan your costume ahead of time. Mrs. Davis, an 8th grade reading teacher, is crazy about Halloween. Her entire room is decked out in Halloween décor, including her desk. “I love how not only kids, but adults can get excited and let out their inner child,” Davis states. “People can learn that you’re never too old to have fun on Halloween.” She also recalls her favorite Halloween pasttimes — watching Hocus Pocus and Nightmare Before Christmas.

Whether you believe the superstitions or not, you can still have fun trick or treating and watching scary movies. You’re never too old to celebrate, so get out there and get spooky!

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History of Halloween