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Halloween: The history behind this spooky holiday

Emily Hepner
Assoc. Features Editor

The streets of Millersville are lined with pumpkins. Ghouls and ghosts are causing spooks from the trees they hang from and candy is in abundance at all the local grocery stores. When you add all of these decorations and treats up, what holiday do you get? The most chilling and creepy one of them all, Halloween!

All Soul’s day was celebrated similarly to Samahain, which is widely believed to be a way of replacing the Celtic holiday. The holiday was also commonly pronounced as “All-hallows,” leading to the current name “Halloween.”
All Soul’s day was celebrated similarly to Samahain, which is widely believed to be a way of replacing the Celtic holiday. The holiday was also commonly pronounced as “All-hallows,” leading to the current name “Halloween.”

This holiday is a staple in nearly everyone’s childhood. Fond memories of putting on a creative costume and getting together with friends and family to go trick or treating come trickling back into our minds as each year the holiday returns. However, for most of us, the traditions of Halloween are never explained to us. It’s just a holiday that we gladly take part in. So what exactly is Halloween?

The oldest origins of the supernatural holiday date back to the ancient Celtic festival called “Samhain” (pronounced Sow-in). According to the History channel, some 2,000 years ago the Celts celebrated their new year on the first of November. This day was a marker for the end of the summer and its harvest and the beginning of darker times that was often associated with death.

From this belief came the idea that Oct. 31 was a “blurred boundary” day between the earthly world and the world of the dead. The ghosts that were rumored to have returned on this day were perceived to be rather meddlesome, by causing trouble and ruining their crops. Due to the ghostly presence, Celtic priests (also known as “Druids”) believed that they developed a sixth sense and could make predictions about the future, states History channel. They did this by building bonfires and wearing costumes made out of animal remains.

Years later after the Celtic territory was captured by the Roman Empire and after Christianity was spread through out the former Celtic area, Samhain eventually blended with the Christian holiday, “All Soul’s Day”, which was celebrated on November 2nd. All Soul’s day was celebrated similarly to Samahain, which is widely believed to be their way of replacing the Celtic holiday, explains the History Channel. The holiday was also commonly pronounced as “All-hallows,” leading to the current name “Halloween.”

October 31st was believed to be a “blurred boundary” day between the earthly world and the world of the dead.
October 31st was believed to be a “blurred boundary” day between the earthly world and the world of the dead.

America’s history with celebrating Halloween is also similar. However, when the holiday came to our country, its celebration was limited due to Protestant beliefs that were held. It was celebrated more often in Maryland and other Southern Colonies. The American version of Halloween still flourished and began as a mesh of beliefs and customs held from American Indians and the different ethnic groups that emigrated from Europe.

Common events were exchanging stories of the dead and predicting futures. The traditions we’re accustomed with today came in the later half of the 19th century when millions immigrated to America, especially those affected by the Irish potato famine. Many Americans began to dress up in costumes and walk door-to-door asking for food or money, a tradition they learned from their new Irish neighbors. The notion of trick-or-treating comes from England during the early years of All Souls’ Day, explains History channel. During the All Souls Day festivities, the poorer citizens would beg for food from their neighbors. These families would give them “soul cakes,” a pastry in return for their prayers about the deceased members of the family.

It’s been a ghostly and spine-chilling history, but it’s brought us to the fun, yet spooky holiday we continue to celebrate today.