The Interesting History Behind Halloween Celebrations

How Halloween Celebrations Started in America

Origins of Halloween

Halloween is just around the corner, and those without their costumes ready to go are scrambling to their nearest costume store in a last-ditch effort to get something put together before their Halloween party! While weaving through traffic to get to the closest Spirit Halloween, you might be wondering, how did Halloween actually start? In today's blog, we discuss the origins of Halloween, and the past traditions that evolved and combined together to create the holiday that we know today.

Samhain, The Celtic Tradition That Started It All

2,000 years ago, the Celtic people lived in what is now Ireland, England, and northern France. The Celts had a tradition that celebrated their new year on the first of November, and marked the end of the summer and harvest, and he beginning of the dark and cold winter season. On the night before this celebration, the Celts believed that the fabric between the world of the living and the dead was at its thinnest, and that the ghosts of their departed would cross this fabric and enter the world of the living. To commemorate this event, and to celebrate the new year, the Celts would build bonfires, wear costumes, and sacrifice animals and crops in reverence to their departed.

Roman Conquest, and the Implementation of All Saints' Day

Years later, the Celtic people would be conquered by Rome, and their traditions would in some instances be wiped out completely, or combined with Roman traditions. This was the case for Samhain, which was combined with the Roman traditions of Feralia, and a celebration of Pomona. Feralia was a Roman tradition that commemorates the dead, while the other celebrated Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona, an apple, is also more than likely where the tradition of bobbing for apples comes from.

In later years, the Catholic Church would incorporate the tradition of All Saints' Day on November 1st, a day that celebrated all of the saints and martyrs of the Catholic Church. As the influence of the Church extended into what used to be Celtic lands, the traditions of All Saints' Day and Samhain combined as they had with the Roman traditions. Another name for All Saints' Day was All-Hallows, which came from the Middle English translation for All Saints' Day. The night before this day, the traditional day for Samhain, became known as All-Hallows Eve, and you can see how we ended up with Halloween!

Halloween Traditions Arrive in America

In the early days of American history, the tradition of Halloween was not actually widely celebrated, due to the strict Protestant beliefs that dominated the colonies. There were scattered autumn festivals held throughout the country as America grew in the 19th century, but Halloween was not a widely celebrated holiday until a surge of European immigrants entered the country, particularly the Irish immigrants that still celebrated All-Hallows Eve.

Vandalism had become a common aspect of Halloween celebrations, stemming from Guy Fawkes Day in Britain, where poor people and children would go door to door asking for money or treats from houses, and threatening to vandalize their houses if they were refused. This is where the idea of “trick or treating” comes from. This tradition of vandalism during Halloween continued throughout the years, until one woman in nearby Hiawatha, Kansas was stirred to action. Elizabeth Krebs, a local figure in the community, and the founder of the Hiawatha Garden Club had become frustrated with the vandalism of property around Hiawatha, and particularly the destruction of gardens all throughout the city. In an effort to stop this, she had the idea of throwing a parade on Halloween to tire out the youth, and have costumes, a full parade, and prizes and competitions for the children. The celebration was a success, and grew in size year after year. While Elizabeth Krebs did not popularize the tradition of going door to door asking for candy, she did have a large hand in creating the Halloween traditions we know today.

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