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Halloween: Where Did It Come From?

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Costumes, treats, ghosts, monsters – that’s what Halloween is all about these days. It represents the switch between summer and winter, the crossover to shorter days and longer nights, to chillier weather. This beloved holiday is celebrated by all, but not everyone knows why. It is thought to have been formed throughout the centuries as different religions and societies influenced the day.

According to The History Channel, Halloween is thought to have originated from the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). This was the Celts’ New Year’s Eve. It marked the end of summer and the beginning of winter. They believed that on Samhain, the line between the world of the living and the dead became blurred, because summer was recognized as the time of life and winter the time of death. The Celts often dressed in costumes and told each other’s fortunes on that night. They also thought that ghosts were said to roam the land after dark, so they wore masks so they would be recognized by the spirits as the dead. They also left bowls of food out for the spirits as well. Both of these traditions influence Halloween traditions today.

According to The History Channel, Halloween is thought to have originated from the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain.”

By 43 A.D., the Romans had conquered the Celtic lands and adapted Samhain into two festivals: one commemorating the passing of the dead in late October, Feralia, and one celebrating the Roman goddess of the fruit and trees, Pomona. The tradition of bobbing for apples is thought to come from the Roman celebration of Pomona.

In 609 A.D., Pope Boniface IV made May 13 All Martyrs’ Day. Pope Gregory III expanded the day to include all saints and moved it to Nov. 1. In 10000 A.D., the church made Nov. 2 All Souls’ Day to honor the dead. This holiday was very similar to Samhain, and was celebrated similarly as well. The day became known as All Hallows’ Day, and the day before, the traditional day of Samhain, was known as All Hallows’ Eve, and later, Halloween.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, Halloween as we know it began to emerge in America. Influences from England and Ireland caused Americans to go from house to house dressed in costume and asking for food and money, later spurring the trick-or-treat tradition. Trick-or-treating is also thought to have originated during English All Saints’ Day parades, where the poor would ask for food and would receive “soul cakes” if they promised to pray for a family’s dead relatives.

Halloween is an amalgamation of several different cultures’ traditions, but throughout history it still retained its spooky vibe.

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Halloween: Where Did It Come From?