Halloween History ( A Beginner’s Guide )
The second most commercial holiday next only to Christmas, Halloween has a long history marked mainly by celebration and superstition.
Originating nearly 2000 years ago, the ancient roots of today’s modern Halloween traditions can be traced back to the mysterious Celtic festival of Samhain ( pronounced SOW-in ).
It was widely believed that on the night of November 1st, spirits from the underworld returned as ghosts. In turn, people left offerings of food and wine on their doorsteps, hoping to protect their houses by providing these restless, roaming, hungry, and perhaps even menacing spirits, with at least some bare-bones form of nourishment. If they decided to leave their homes for the night, ancient folk were careful to wear masks, hoping to convince any wandering ghosts whose paths they might cross, that they too were merely kindred souls.
In the 8th century, the Catholic church decreed the Celtic tradition be transformed into “All Saint’s Day”, with the night before becoming known as “All Hollow’s Eve”, or what we commonly know today simply as Halloween.
Along with trick or treating, two other popular traditions born out of Medieval Britain were “Souling” and “Guising”.
For its part, Souling took place on November 2nd: All Souls Day. Here, the poor and down-trodden would wander the streets and country-side begging for what were known as “Soul Cakes”. In exchange, they would then pray for the welfare of donors’ deceased family members.
Guising, on the other hand, typically involved children dressing up in costumes, and either singing, reciting poetry, or telling jokes; all in exchange for such things as food, wine, money, or other miscellaneous treats.
In the 1800’s, British immigrants to the West breathed new life into many of the long-standing traditions, placing special emphasis on trick or treating. Initially, pranks were most predominant throughout the New World, until around the 1950’s, when Halloween took on a more light-hearted, commercial, family oriented, and child centered approach.
Second only to Christmas, the unofficial holiday has evolved to the point now where it commands significant financial clout. Between costumes and candy, today’s American consumers actually cough up approximately something in the neighborhood of $6 billion dollars annually.
For many of these fans dedicated to celebrating, no price is too high when it comes to investing in their Halloween parties, haunted hi-jinx and fun: perhaps not even the fate of their immortal destiny.