Why Do We Celebrate Halloween?
Without question, Halloween is one of the most popular festivities in the United States, and it is also enjoyed in many nations. Halloween, also known as All Saints' Eve, has been cherished for hundreds of years, beginning as a religious celebration. But, more so, Halloween origins are said to be related to Celtic paganism, indicating that it has been a momentous day since ancient times.
So, whether you're actively planning your Halloween costume or are simply interested in the traditions surrounding this spooky event, this is all you need to know about where Halloween originated and why do we celebrate Halloween in general.
Halloween Legends: Where Halloween Originated
In the Celtic culture, Samhain is a sacred holiday celebrating the completion of the harvest season and the beginning of the new year. It is where the origins of Halloween may be traced back thousands of years. At this time, The Celts thought that the dead might reappear and retrace their steps because they considered the boundary between the living and the dead was at its weakest. Furthermore, those who passed away in the previous year but hadn't yet moved on would do so while having a chance to communicate with the living.
A widely held view that the souls of the murdered and dead could come back to their houses would prompt people to dress up in costumes and light bonfires to fend off the ghosts. As a result, witches, ghosts, and goblins have become famous Halloween archetypes.
It is uncertain how long these rites were a part of Samhain celebrations, although they likely existed in some form by the time Christianity arrived in Ireland in the fifth century. The bonfire set on or about October 31 to mark the start of Samhain ceremonies was ignited on the hill of Tlachtga in County Meath.
The history of Halloween continued when the Romans gained control, and the Samhain holiday was slowly merged with the Roman festivities of Feralia, which honored the deceased, and Pomona, the goddess of fruitful abundance. So, how old is Halloween, you may ask? Well, November 1 was set aside to celebrate the saints and martyrs, according to a decree made by Pope Gregory III in the seventh century. As a result, all Saints Day was established, and October 31 was designated All Saints Eve. The real meaning of Halloween, as we know it today, would later develop from All Hallows Eve or Allhalloween.
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Why Do We Carve Pumpkins? Jack-o'-Lantern History
It seems that carving pumpkins for Halloween has become a custom in the United States, given the association between pumpkins and the supernatural in mythology and contemporary culture. You must hear the Jack-o'-Lantern story to understand further how did Halloween get started.
The tradition of turning pumpkins into lanterns comes from a folktale about a lost spirit traveling the planet. In Ireland, a man named Stingy Jack was so cunning that the Devil was drawn to him. One night, the Devil visited Jack, who came to steal his soul because of his harmful activities. But Jack outsmarted the Devil, getting him to promise never to take Jack's life. When Jack did pass away, his soul traveled to paradise but was denied entry due to his bad conduct. He then entered hell in search of a place to live eternally, but according to their previous understanding, the Devil could not steal his soul. The most he could do was give Jack a lone coal ember, which Jack carried in a pumpkin that had been hollowed out to use as a lantern while he traveled the land. He earned the moniker "Jack of the Lantern."
This folktale inspired the practice of carving grotesque characters into pumpkins and placing them outdoors or on the sides of the building while lighting a candle to ward off Stingy Jack's ghost. These are now referred to as Jack O'Lanterns. The Irish also thought that the candles would brighten the path for decent souls to appear on Halloween, which occurs just once a year in the United States.
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Along with carving pumpkins, trick-or-treating and dressing up as a mysterious character are among the cherished Halloween traditions worldwide. Everywhere we turn, there are individuals donning witch hats or bloodied teeth, a chamber filled in eerie webbing, and the wavering illumination of a ghastly jack-o'-lantern. However, where did these symbols originate from, and what do they signify? Continue reading for a brief introduction to Halloween traditions and special symbols.
Bats, Witches, and Black Cats
The Samhain celebration is one explanation of the connection between bats and Halloween. On October 31, the Celts would burn bonfires to ward off bad spirits at the harvest's end. This behavior would draw bats as well as insects.
Not to mention that a black cat will likely be around if you see a witch on Halloween. Black cats have long been associated with witches, evil, and curses. It was a widely held concept in medieval Europe that the wicked could transform into a black cat. During the witch hunts, black cats were commonly discovered to be the accomplices of the suspected witches. The cats appeared to be the ideal companions for witches since they were well-hidden and undetectable in the dark, and many thought they were devils that might assist witches with black magic.
Ghosts and Soul Cakes
Halloween has traditionally been associated with ghosts. The ghost symbolism is appropriate for this eerie event since it's said that the dead might walk among the living on Halloween night and pay visits to their former houses and family members. Nowadays, telling ghost stories is a popular pastime among those who love scaring friends on Halloween.
Speaking of ghosts, soul cakes were used to tip the begging strangers who stopped by on All Saints' Eve and volunteered to perform prayers for the deceased household members. One cake donated equaled one soul saved. It is believed that their successors are the trick-or-treaters of nowadays.
Trick-or-Treating and Candy Corn
Historians assert that the practice of children asking their neighbors for food may have its roots in an ancient Celtic festival, making trick-or-treating a tested Halloween fun tradition. Following the Second World War, when candy was once again widely accessible, and restrictions were lifted, trick-or-treating became popular in the United States. In addition, the rapid growth of smaller towns made it simpler for children to move from door to door, which progressed the tradition.
Even though candy corn is usually rated as America's least favorite Halloween treat, it was initially produced in the 1880s and is still a Halloween staple today. However, since trick-or-treating became more popular after World War II, chocolate has dominated the confectionery market. As a result, Halloween surpassed Christmas as the most popular U.S. holiday for chocolate sales in 2009, and that trend continues.
Scarecrows are associated with Halloween because their primary function is to arouse terror regardless of culture or harvest. They always serve the same objective, which is to scare off invaders and excel at it. They were employed in the fields by several tribes, occasionally with heads made of animal skulls. Scarecrows would be destroyed in excitement during harvest rites, and the remains would be spread back into the ground. Scarecrows are mysterious characters who instill a feeling of dread.
While many people reserve their tricks for April Fool's Day, Halloween is the ideal occasion to startle someone completely. Halloween was an event for trickery, chaos, and mischief in early 19th-century America. Jack-o-lanterns hanged from sticks while teenagers terrorized younger children by bursting through walls. Fun developed into havoc as America became more sophisticated and urban, which finally sparked a push to address what the media dubbed a Halloween issue and make the occasion a friendlier activity for kids. However, there wouldn't be any sweets today if it weren't for the old tricks.
Spooky Halloween Costumes
The history of Halloween costumes is quite interesting as Halloween was one of a few festivals for which Americans dressed up in the early twentieth century. Most Halloween costumes were handcrafted and more especially targeted toward eerie elements compared to present celebrations, which sometimes have funny aspects to them. The objective was that people dressed creepily would invoke motifs like spirits, goblins, pumpkins, and black cats. Nowadays, people disguise their identities in movie characters or other prominent figures. For example, we can see young women dressed as Catwoman or boys presented as spiderman. The real history of Halloween in America can be reflected in the costume evolution itself.
At the Pomona Roman festival, the goddess was frequently symbolized with and connected to apples. However, it is thought that a candy manufacturer named Kolb inadvertently created candy apples in 1908. To promote his new candy on his storefront, he coated apples on poles with the crimson glaze as he experimented with making red cinnamon candies to sell during the Christmas season. But in the end, he ultimately sold the apples to clients who believed they looked nice enough to eat rather than the candy. Beginning in the early 1900s, they evolved into trendy Halloween sweets and remained so until the 1970s.
Halloween Traditions Around the World
American Halloween traditions are often known to people all across the world. But, of course, there are other ways to celebrate as well. Here is a brief overview of some of the different Halloween traditions practiced across the globe.
Ognissanti in Italy
Along with the earlier, more established "Ognissanti" celebrations, Halloween is a contemporary, imported holiday in Italy. All Saints Day, or "Ognissant," is observed on November 1 and 2. However, many frequently start the festivities a day or two beforehand. Tradition has it that during Ognissanti, the spirits of the dead visit their surviving kin. Potted flowers in the fall are used to adorn graves. In addition, they provide meals for any souls who may 'stop by.
Kawasaki Halloween Parade in Japan
The Kawasaki Halloween Parade, which draws over 4,000 costumed spectators, is Japan's most prominent Halloween event. But you can't just show up in anything you want. Attendees must submit applications at least two months before the event to attend, and what's more, there are requirements!
Dia de los Muertos in Latin America/Mexico/Spain
The Day of the Dead, also known as Dia de Los Muertos, is a celebrated holiday in these areas. According to tradition, on October 31, spirits visit their family before leaving on November 2. Families make meals and decorations for the coming of the spirits. Instead of being a time of grief, this period glorifies death.
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Halloween Horror Movies
For many, Halloween isn't truly here until the family gathers on the couch to watch one of the terrifying classic Halloween movies. So for all Halloween film lovers, we provide a bunch of recommendations here.
- Hocus Pocus (1993)
- The Addams Family (1991)
- Halloween (1978)
- Practical Magic (1998)
- Trick 'r Treat (2007)
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (2001)
- A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
- Scary Movie (2000)
- Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
- Scream (1996)
- Rosemary's Baby (1968)
- The Shining (1980)
- Halloweentown (1998)
- Child's Play (1988)
- Beetlejuice (1988)
- Edward Scissorhands (1990)
- Ghostbusters (1984)
- The Blair Witch Project (1999)
- Casper (1995)
- The Craft (1996)
As we can see, the festival changed through time, absorbing Christian traditions, European mysticism, and American capitalism. Trick-or-treating, costumes, jack-o-lanterns, and scary movies are all part of the modern Halloween celebration; these traditions would likely be alien to people who participated in Halloween's earlier versions. So let's do a recap of the history of Halloween timeline here:
- Ancient Times: Samhain as the beginning of Halloween
- 10th Century: Christianization of Samhain
- The Middles Ages: Evolution of Trick-or-Treating
- 19th Century: Jack-o'-Lanterns Start to Form
- 19th Century: America Welcomes Halloween with Mischief
- The 1930s: The U.S. Develops a Trend for Haunted Houses
- The 1950s: Halloween Costumes Become Popular
- The 2000s: Halloween Outfits Start Becoming Appealing
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Looking to make a statement with your text message this Halloween? Choose a message to include in a postcard or text that is hilarious, sweet, or terrifying from our speech writing helper.
- I hope you have a happy Halloween full of tricks and sweets!
- Enjoy your trick-or-treating to the fullest!
- From our spooky family to yours, Happy Halloween!
- Witching you a spooky and happy Halloween!
- While you're out begging for sweets, drop by for a spell!
- May the spooktacular desires of the Halloween ghosts come true!