Halloween began 2000 years ago with the ancient Celts in what is now the United Kingdom. The Celts celebration was called Samhain on October 31. They believed that on this night the dead comingled with the living. They wore costumes to scare away these spirits. It was also believed that on this night the future could be seen and fortunes told. The priests or Druids built large bonfires and made sacrifices. The people would light their hearth fires from these sacred bonfires for protection during the winter.
In time the Romans conquered the Celts and added two of their own pagan festivals to Samhain. Then the Catholic Church stepped in and designated Nov 1 as All Saints Day or All Hallows. The 31st then became All Hallows Eve or Halloween. A bit later the Church named Nov 2 All Souls Day which was celebrated with bonfires, parades, and costumes. These three days became known as Hallowmas.
How did all of this find its way to our grand shores? Our ancestors, immigrants from all over Europe, brought Halloween and other traditions with them. Celebrations were limited in the Protestant New England colonies, but flourished in the South. Various European traditions meshed with Native American beliefs and evolved into a very American Halloween experience. There were parties where ghost stories, fortune-telling, dancing, and singing prevailed. The Potato Famine of 1846 brought many new Irish immigrants to America. They brought with them many new traditions that changed Halloween and helped it grow nationally. People began to dress in costumes and go house-to-house asking for food or money. This eventually became trick or treating.
Later, Halloween became a holiday about community and neighbors. Adults and children alike took great pleasure in parties, games, seasonal food, and costumes. I love this idea of community and bringing people together. My husband and I host a Halloween Party each year for our family and friends. We have games for the little ones and costumes are always welcome. I love taking this one night out to play dress-up and be a kid again!
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