Halloween Throughout History

Halloween Throughout History
This picture depicts the Celtics celebrating Halloween by making sacrifices and eating food.

Charlotte Dustin, Reporter

Halloween. A holiday is often associated with great candy, costumes, and monsters, but it is in fact much more. Halloween has been around for centuries and, like all holidays, has a rich and storied past.  The traditions of Halloween can be dated back to the Celtics nearly 2,000 years ago in what is now the United Kingdom, Southern Ireland, and parts of northern France. The holiday was originally celebrated on the first of November to mark the end of harvest and the beginning of the dreaded winter. The winter was viewed as a time of death which made the night before winter the bridge between “life and death.” They called this night Samhain, the time where ghosts could visit Earth. To commemorate this time of celebration, huge bonfires were made to burn crops and even make animal sacrifices. During this time they would wear costumes usually made of animal skins.

When Rome conquered the Celtics in 43 AD, they decided to use the Celtic traditions and incorporate them into their own culture. This led to the creation of two holidays: the Feralia and Lemuria. The Furalia celebrated the spirits of the dead and was held on February 21; the last day of the Parentalia festival. Lemuria was celebrated on three days, May 9, 11, and 13. This festival was also a commemoration of the dead, but more specifically of the Lemures. The Lemures were the spirits of those who died a violent or untimely death. These traditions were practiced for nearly five and a half centuries before the Catholic church decided to adopt the traditions in 609 AD. 

The Catholic church eventually changed the holiday back to its original date on November 1st but also had the holiday continue the following day. This tradition became a starting point for All Hallow’s Eve, celebrated the last day in October. Although the Catholics tried to make the holiday more like Samhain, the Roman influence never went away and is still part of the tradition today. Saints were often the main focal point of the holiday instead of the Gothic elements that had previously inspired it.

When America was colonized, the holiday wasn’t nationally practiced in the new world. In colonial New England there weren’t many customs practiced around Halloween because of their Protestant beliefs. The holiday was, however, prominent in the southern colonies where the holiday began to put down its own American roots. The traditions progressed into ghost stories, and dressing up started to become the norm. When Irish immigrants started to stream into the United States, Halloween really took shape. America then adopted the European tradition of going to people’s doors and asking for money or candy. 

In the modern day world Halloween still maintains its roots. According to businessinsider.com, “Outside of the United States people celebrate the holiday in unique ways. Ireland, Mexico, Italy, and Portugal are a few countries with Halloween time celebrations.” Although technology has popularized the holiday to new heights with social media, its main celebrators are the countries where it originated. Even though the corona virus has restricted the amount of people trick or treating and celebrating Halloween these past few years, there are still a lot of people planning on participating this coming Halloween.