The History of Halloween
Americans love Halloween! All the candy, the costumes, and the creepy decor cause us much delight but as beloved as the holiday is here in the United States, it didn't originate here. In fact, the history of Halloween dates back thousands of years to the Celtic celebration of Samhain, a festival that marked the end of the harvest and the start of a new year. The day was also said to be a time when the veil between the living and the dead was the thinnest, and when humans could communicate with those beyond the grave. Spooky stuff huh!
Halloween celebrations of the past did not include glittery pumpkins or princess and superhero costumes. Halloween was a time of communing with otherworldly spirits and with big bonfires lit in honor of the dead. They would build bonfires and burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic gods. Villagers would attend the bonfires wearing costumes of animal heads and skins.
Now, fast forward a few centuries. Several Christian popes attempted to replace "pagan" holidays like Samhain with events of their own design. By 1000 A.D., All Souls' Day on November 2nd served as a time for the living to pray for the souls of the dead. All Saints' Day, which was November 1st, obviously honored saints but it was also called All Hallows. That made October 31st, All Hallows Eve, and later, Halloween.
Despite the new religious focus, people in Old England and Ireland continued to associate the time with the wandering dead. They set out gifts of food to please the spirits, and as time wore on, people would dress in scary costumes in exchange for treats themselves. This practice was called "mumming," and is similar to what we know today as trick-or-treating.
By the end of the 1800s, more communities pushed for a secular and safer set of rituals. People started holding Halloween parties that emphasized games, fall food, and costumes over witchcraft and troublemaking. “Trick-or-treating” had skyrocketed in popularity by the 1950s, when Halloween became a true national event. Today, over 179 million Americans celebrate the holiday and they spend about $9.1 billion on it per year!!!