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A Brief History of Halloween

Published by Shaun Azbell

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The History of Halloween

Halloween is that fun time of year when we get to dress up in silly or scary costumes, trick-or-treat with our little ones, and have an excuse to eat excessive amounts of candy!

But where did Halloween come from, anyway?

To find the origins of Halloween, one must go all the way back to the ancient pagan holiday of Samhain (pronounced sow-en).

The festival of Samhain began a couple thousand years ago with the Celts in the British Isles. Samhain was a celebration of the end of the summer harvest & the beginning of the cold, desolate winter. It was a time to gather supplies for the harsh months ahead. It was believed that on October 31st, the boundaries between planes of existence were weakened, allowing for easier contact with the dead. These early pagans often adorned themselves with costumes of animal skins to ward off the evil spirits that might attack them or their harvests.

Samhain was a time to collect & store many fruits for the winter, including apples & pumpkins. This is where a lot of our modern-day symbolism comes from, such as bobbing for apples & having pumpkins on our porches.

Many modern-day pagans, such as Wiccans, still partake in the traditions of Samhain & often perform specific rituals & magick on this day.

During the medieval ages, the practice of trick-or-treating was born. The impoverished of this time would go door-to-door on Halloween and offer prayers of protection in return for food. Although it is debated whether the American tradition of trick-or-treating descends directly from these events, it is a distinct possibility.

The modern jack-o-lantern stems from this time period when the story of “Stingy Jack” was born. According to legend, “Stingy Jack” denied food to those who came to his house on October 31st. Since then, folks began carving “jack-o-lanterns” & leaving them outside their houses on Halloween to ward off the stingy spirit of Jack as well as other undesirable spirits.

With the influx of Irish immigrants to the United States in the 1840s, Halloween & all its traditions reached America, however it did not fully catch on until the early to mid-1900s. It began as a community-based holiday, and later transformed into a day focused on children.

Only in our most recent history did Halloween as we know & love it come to be. Halloween is now a holiday loved by people of all ages. Although some religious extremists still look at October 31st with disdain & some delinquents still see fit to use the day as a celebration of vandalism & mischief, Halloween remains one of the most celebrated & enjoyed holidays in the United States.

History Channel



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