The opaque sky blankets the streets. Decorations of ghosts, witches, ghouls, black spiders, jack-o-lanterns and spiderwebs adorn the houses. Masses of children pile their way through the streets dressed in various costumes and endless candy fills the bags that are held tightly in their unyielding grips. They lurk to the gloomily lit doors with bags piled high with nickers, Kit Kats, Twix, Swedish Fish, Skittles, M&M’s, Hershey Kisses, in addition to an infinite list of others. We all know Halloween. It’s a famous time where there are haunted houses, bags of candy, frightening costumes, scary movies, and pumpkins. But do you know where it actually comes from? The roots of Halloween may be a lot deeper than you think.
For instance, the beginnings of Halloween can be traced back around 2000 years ago to the Ancient Celts. On Oct. 31, they celebrated a holiday known as Samhain, pronounced Sawhin, in order to prepare for the upcoming winter. The word Samhain literally meant “summer’s end” in their language and they would have many rituals on this day. They believed evil spirits and ghosts rose from the dead on Samhain, so they dressed up in horrying costumes in order to scare them away. In addition to wearing ghost masks to be mistaken by fellow ghosts, adults and children wore costumes and told tokes and sang for others in exchange for food, wine, and other offerings. Another practice included beggars pleading for a pastry known as “soul bread.” In exchange for the bread they would pray for the person’s deceased relatives. These practices have been widely documented to be the prerequisite to the current “trick or treating” in the United States. After many years of these Medieval rituals, the Catholics created a holiday known as All Saints’ Day on November 1st in order to distract those partaking in the pagan practices and lead them to their Christian ways. Through much rebellion, those who still desired to continue these rituals created a holiday known as All Hallow’s Eve, occurring the day before All Saint’s Day.The Irishmen and women who came to the United States during the Irish Potato Famine are responsible for reviving this ancient holiday. When they arrived in the United States, they brought their rituals with them, and, after a short amount of time, all of the United States began to participate in their evolved rituals. The term “Hallow’s Eve” was then shortened to the current name for the holiday “Halloween.” Now because of the Ancient Celts, there is a nationwide holiday that brings around $6 billion in revenue every year. From ancient rituals, to a night of lighthearted-fun, this holiday has evolved over the centuries and transformed into what it is today.