Now that we’ve entered October–or should we say 31 days of Halloween–it’s time to get spooky! Though Halloween is on October 31st every year, the celebration of All Hallow’s Eve seems to grow longer as time goes on, since there are so many activities to participate in–as if Autumn and Halloween are combined into one big festival. Though most of us have pretty solid images in our head when we think of the word “Halloween,” the origins and events that lead to the holiday as we know it today was quite the journey.
Origins of Halloween
It is widely accepted that the origins of the holiday stem from an ancient Celtic ritual/festival called Samhain, where people celebrated at the end of October into November, reaping their harvest and getting ready for the winter months. During this festival, which sometimes could last for days, the Celtics believed that the barrier between the physical world and the spiritual world was gone; therefore allowing for interaction between the two. The people would dress up in what we would now consider costumes, welcome “monsters” or their ancestors, bonfires would be going all through the night, and much food and drink was consumed. This event went on for generations in their culture, and in some ways, is still celebrated in the modern era.
As time went on and Roman influences came about where the Celtic people were, many were converted to Christianity, and the holiday took on a few different versions. More notable changes occurred in the 1st century when Pope Boniface IV mandated “All Saint’s Day,” mainly dedicated to Christian martyrs. Another one occurred in the 9th century when Christian and pagan rites blended to create “All Souls’ Day” to remember the dead. Though many historians believe the church was trying to replace the Samhain celebration with All Souls Day, most years it looked very similar to what it had been for thousands of years, just with more angels and devils. In old English the translation was Alholowmesse for All Saint’s Day, but eventually morphed into All-hallows, All Hallows Eve, and now, Halloween.
Halloween in the USA
As The United States began as a country, Halloween wasn’t super popular and had a couple of snags mainly due to strict Protestant beliefs, as well as a surge in witch-craft accusations. But as more immigrants flooded into the country and melted with Native American influences, celebrations of Autumn, the fall harvest, and eventually small gatherings where some people dressed up, became more common.
As we entered the 20th century, trick-or-treating became more well known, as did neighborhood get-togethers with costume parties; and the nation as a whole recognized the holiday. As time went on, communities tried to take out the religious and superstitious implications to make it more secular, which has made the holiday more popular in the US. Today, Halloween is mainly gauged toward children where whole towns participate in family-friendly activities.
Halloween Outside of the US
You may be familiar with what there is do do within the United States to celebrate, but there are many different cultures around the world that also celebrate around this time, but make it their own. Many of them have common threads to Halloween/Autumn festivities, but are all unique with their own flair.
Mexico and several areas of Latin America celebrate Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. It is honoring the dead and celebrated with alters filled with gifts for those who have passed, and it is believed during the time of the holiday ancestors are able to come and visit the living. There is a Day of Dracula celebrated in Romania, Pangangaluluwa in the Philippines, Hungry Ghost Festival in Hong Kong, and Dzien Zaduszny in Poland. Most of these are about remembering and celebrating the dead, but the origins are the same.
What is There to Do?
Now that we’re in the 21st century, what is there to do on Halloween? Well, the beautiful thing is that is has morphed into an all-inclusive holiday where you can do as much or as little as you’d like–and no one will judge you for it.
If you like Fall but not Halloween, you can don some cute sweaters, scarves, and boots, and grab a chai tea latte while watching The Nightmare Before Christmas while the leaves are falling, and you are golden. If you’re a Halloween fan, you can watch some classic horror films, go to a few haunted houses, a fear-based convention, and dress to the nines as your favorite Hocus Pocus character, and that’s great! If you want to just go buy pumpkins and eat candy corn, or take the kids to a hay rid, anything and everything is acceptable.
There are a million things you can do to celebrate Halloween, and you’ll be celebrating with millions before you, and millions around the world.