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History of Halloween: A Quick Reference Guide and History Lesson

The History of Halloween

History of Halloween

Do your kids ask you about the history of Halloween and you look at them with a clueless look on your face?

Well here’s a quick run-down of the boo-dalicious holiday.

Halloween is celebrated each year on October 31, with roots in Celtic influence and Christianity.

Some folklorists say the holiday originated by the festival of the dead during Roman times, while others say it’s more typically linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain.  It also has roots in the Christian holiday All Saints’ Day, but today, Halloween is largely a secular celebration.

The festival of Samhain celebrates the end of the “lighter half” of the year and beginning of the “darker half”, and is sometimes regarded as the “Celtic New Year”, celebrating the end of the harvest season in Gaelic culture.

The ancient Celts believed that the boundaries between the world of the living and the “other world” (of the dead) overlapped on this day, which would allow for spirits to pass through.

In order to ward off the harmful spirits, people would wear costumes and masks.  Their purpose was to disguise oneself as a harmful spirit and thus avoid harm.

The name ‘Halloween’ and many of its present-day traditions derive from the Old English era, first attested in the 16th century.

When the Scottish and Irish brought the holiday to North American in the 19th century, many children disguised in costumes going from door to door requesting food or coins.

The earliest known reference to”trick-or-treating” in North America occured in 1911, when a newspaper in Kingston, Ontario reported that it was normal for the smaller children to go street “guising” on Halloween between 6 and 7 p.m., visiting shops and neighbors to be rewarded with nuts and candies for their rhymes and songs.

The first mass-produced Halloween costumes appeared in stores in the 1930s when trick-or-treating was becoming popular in the United States.

Halloween costumes are traditionally modeled after monsters such as ghosts, skeletons, witches, and devils. Over time, the costume selection extended to include popular characters from fiction, celebrities, and generic archetypes such as ninjas and princesses.

Today, traditional activities include trick-or-treating, bonfires, costume parties, visiting haunted houses, carving jack-o-lanterns, ghost tours, telling ghost stories and watching horror films.

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