31 October 2011

History of Halloween

The last October Post of the month is here! It's gone by so quickly. Today we'll be doing a brief history of Halloween to celebrate the day. :)

The ancient Celtic celebration of Samhain was a New Year's celebration. November 1st was considered New Year's day, marking the end of summer and harvest and the beginning of the darker, colder months. The Celts believed that on this transitional day, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became thin and blurred, so ghosts could walk among the living. Samhain is a fire feast, so it was traditionally celebrated with bonfires, predicting the future and wearing costumes to scare away any spirits that came near.

When the Roman conquered the Celts, two Roman holidays started to blend with the tradition of Samhain. Feralia was a late October Roman holiday the commemorate the passing of the dead. Another holiday celebrated Ponoma, the goddess of fruits and trees. Her symbol is the apple and is commonly believed to be the origin of the bobbing for apples tradition.

Later, the Catholic Church declared that the November 1st would be All Saints Day, a day to honor saints and martyrs in feast. As this celebration spread, it started to replace some of the old Celtic and Roman rituals, which all blurred together further. It was typically celebrated with bonfires and costumes of saints, angels and devils. The day was called "All-hallows" or "All-hallowsmas". The day before (also the traditional day of Samhain) became known as "All-hallowes-eve", which eventually evolved into the Halloween we know today.

Halloween came to America along with immigrants. It was much more popular in the southern colonies (rather than the more puritanical New England ones) until the mid 1800s when the great potato famine in Ireland brought millions of Irish to America. This population movement helped to popularize the celebration of Halloween on a national level. As the Irish and English had done, people began to dress up and travel door to door asking for money and food, which eventually became "trick-or-treating". By the 1930s, Halloween was a secular holiday. The 1950s saw a boom in celebration just as they saw a boom in population. Trick-or-treating was considered an inexpensive way to celebrate as a community. Today it has become America's second largest commercial holiday.

If you're interested in learning more about the History of Halloween, visit History.com's Halloween page.

It's been wonderful writing these October Posts this month! I've enjoyed having the direction and getting to share with you all in the comments. Happy Halloween!

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