Today, Halloween is seen has a fun holiday that allows people to dress up and become someone else for a night and collect as much candy as possible, but how did it start? Around 2,000 years ago when the Celts were in what is present-day Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France, they created Samhain. The ancient Celtic Festival of Samhain, which included people
having bonfires and dressing up to scare off ghosts and other evil spirits. The spirits were thought to damage crops and cause trouble. Samhain is believed to have started Halloween.
Around this time period, November 1 was the day that marked the end of summer and the beginning of winter, which was associated with death. They believed that the worlds of the living and the dead collided on the night of October 31, so they created Samhain. Celts believed that the spirits not only caused trouble and damaged crops but also affected the priests as well. They believed that the spirits made it easier for the priests to predict the future. To please the Celtic deities and prevent the spread of trouble, the Celts made bonfires, where they sacrificed animals and parts of their crops instead in hopes to receive future predictions.
By 43 A.D., the Roman Empire conquered most of the Celt’s territory, where two festivals of Roman origin were mixed with the Festival of Samhain. The first of the two festivals added was Feralia, celebrated in late October when the Roman commemorated the dead. The second festival was to honor Pomona, the goddess of fruit and trees. Pomona is represented by an apple, which is where bobbing for apples on Halloween is thought to originate from.
By the ninth century, the strong influence of Christianity spread into the Celtic lands, where it started to blend into the Celtic culture. The church made November 2 All Souls’ Day in 1000 A.D., which they honored the dead. It’s believed that the church was trying to replace the Celtic Festival of the dead with a church-sanctioned holiday. All Souls’ Day was celebrated in a very
similar fashion as to Samhain. Souls’ Day had parades, bonfires, and people dressing up. The holiday was also called All-Hallows, and the night before was called All-Hallows Eve, which eventually was called Halloween.
How did Halloween come to America then? As the beliefs of different European ethnic groups and the American Indians merged, an American version of Halloween was created. The celebrations included public events to celebrate the harvest. To celebrate, neighbors would share stories, tell fortunes, dance and sing. The holiday was popularized until the second half of the
19th century when new immigrants came to America. Many of the new immigrants were Irish, which was thought to have helped with the popularization of the holiday especially.
Influenced by Europeans, Americans began dressing up and going house to house, asking for money or food. Many women believed that on Halloween they could predict their future husbands by doing tricks with yarn, apples or mirrors. This is what is thought to have created “trick-or-treat” that we know today.
By the 1800s, the Halloween we know today was created. People started to move towards partying and celebrating as a community instead of focusing on witchcraft, magic, and evil spirits.