We are less than a week away from Halloween so over the next few days I’ll be sharing with you the stories behind the holiday and its traditions
Halloween did not originate in the United States, but Americans are expert at taking a little from one culture and a little from another to make a holiday their own. Today Halloween in America is intended as a nonsectarian celebration involving parties, parades, haunted houses, and children going door-to-door to trick or treat for candy. Here is a little more background:
Where Did Halloween Begin?
The Halloween of today has roots in an ancient Celtic harvest festival, called Samhain, celebrated on November 1. A feast was held to celebrate what they hoped would be a bountiful harvest, but they feared that mischievous spirits would visit the countryside with the intent of damaging the crops. To protect the harvest, the Celts gathered and built huge bonfires to scare away the spirits. (The Celts also believed that the change over from summer to winter was a time when the veil between the living and the dead was thinnest and therefore, it was a time when spirits could cross over.)
When Christianity began to spread to the British Isles (ca. 5th century A.D.), the Christian religious leaders worried about the pagan influence of the Celtic traditions, so they offered a substitute holiday: All Soul’s Day was celebrated on November 1, and All Hallow’s Eve, the night before.
In the mid 1800s, nearly two million Irish immigrants came to the U.S. to escape their country’s famine. They brought with them the traditions from Ireland, some of which traced to their Celtic origins. The Scottish people, too, arrived with an All Soul’s Day and Hallow E’en that involved fireworks, telling ghost stories, making mischief, playing games such as bobbing for apples, and telling fortunes.
Check back for more stories about Halloween! (Like what was the purpose of the Jack O’Lantern?)