Lifestyle

The History of Halloween: Why Does It Exist?

By Melissa Farthing, Staff Writer/Artist

It’s that spooky time of year again when jack-o-lanterns adorn front porches and pumpkin spice is injected into every food item, regardless of whether it makes sense or tastes good. Halloween can be an amusing annual occasion for people of all ages, but where did it come from, and how did we begin to celebrate it? The answer may surprise you. 

It all started around 2,000 years ago in the region now known as Ireland, the United Kingdom and France. The people who occupied this area at the time were the Celts, who celebrated a festival known as Samhain (pronounced sow-in), according to History.com. 

This event took place on Oct. 31, a night when it was believed that the souls of the dead came back to Earth for a brief period. Although this may seem like a bad outcome, the ghosts supposedly helped Celtic priests called Druids make predictions about the future. To help aid in this endeavor, the Druids would light sacred fires and burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic gods. Then, the rest of the village would dress up in animal hides while attempting to tell the fortunes of everyone. This is the primeval origin of why we wear costumes on Halloween.

Around the year 800, Christianity had spread throughout the Celtic lands, and a new holiday was established: All Saints Day. This holiday was held on November 1, one day after Samhain, and is believed to have been an attempt to replace the ancient Celtic festival. 

Despite this assumption, All Saints Day and Samhain shared many of the same festivities, such as bonfires and costumes. Eventually, the night before this festival became referred to as All-Hallows Eve (“hallow” meaning “holy person”). This led to the holiday we now know as Halloween, a name popularized by poet Robert Burns in the 18th century, according to Business Insider. 

Now that you know where Halloween originated from, you may still be wondering why certain activities are associated with the holiday. As I mentioned earlier, people first began wearing costumes during Samhain, but trick-or-treating didn’t begin until medieval times. Poor villagers would go door to door to the rich begging for soul cakes, a biscuit-like pastry, according to Country Living. Modern-day trick-or-treating didn’t begin until the early 1900s, when adults started passing out candy to children in return for getting off the hook from any Halloween pranks or “tricks.”

Another popular Halloween game that has an interesting history is apple bobbing. Originally, apple bobbing was a way for women to find a future soulmate. According to NPR, young women would mark an apple and throw it into a tub of water. Then, a group of young men would bob for them. Once the guys had caught the apples, they would peer at the mark and match it with the girl who had drawn it. This was supposedly an accurate way to determine future couples.

This October 31st, keep in mind some of the things you read above. Hopefully they will allow you to have a greater appreciation for this fun-filled fall holiday.

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