Spooky ghost and ghouls, stray black cats, wicked witch shrieks, and endless amounts of sugary treats all come together for one night of the year: October 31st. Halloween is an evening where kids run house to house yelling “TRICK-OR-TREAT!” dressed as scary mystical creatures or cute Disney princesses, all attempting to fill their sacks with delicious candy. Over the years, Halloween has gained new traditions and scary tales, but some traditions still hold true from the holiday’s origins. Halloween’s original name was Samhaim, which comes from the Celtic period. Samhaim represented the end of summer and beginning of winter, which meant long, cold, dark days and the end of the harvest season. The winter period represented a time of death due to the bitter weather and bare lands. The Celtics believed the ghosts and spirits of the dead came back to Earth on the night of October 31st and allowed for their priests to make predictions about the future. Another tradition started by the Celtics was the wearing of costumes on this evening to scare away any evil spirits who might attack them. It was common for them to wear animal pelts and heads.
Today’s Halloween also has roots in a Catholic holiday: All Saint’s Day, first introduced by Pope Gregory III. All Saint’s Day was originally celebrated on November 1st each year, but later included All Souls’ Day on November 2nd to celebrate the dead. The night before November 1st was named All-Hallows Eve, which eventually turned to Halloween. This three-day celebration has become a popular tradition in Central American countries, South American countries, and Mexico, and is known as El Día de los Muertos, or “The Day of the Dead”. The holiday welcomes back the spirits of the dead to their families and is considered a time of celebration. The United States has adopted the Samhaim version rather than the three-day celebration of El Día de los Muertos holiday.
The United States has embraced the Halloween holiday in full in past centuries. I can remember, the week leading up to Halloween, my family would partake in the tradition of carving pumpkins with hopes of the Jack-O-Lantern somewhat resembling the design. As the week would progress, we would go costume shopping at the local Halloween store and always attempt to find that year’s best costume. During the school day of October 31st, we would have a class party that included bobbing for apples, telling spooky ghost stories, and eating as much sugar as possible to prepare for the night that would follow. That evening, we would all get dressed in our costumes, and run outside with a strategic game plan of which houses to attack first, but would always have to pause and pose for a picture for all the moms. For the next two hours, the only break in running was to yell “Trick-or-treat!” at each of the neighbors. The night ended with us sitting on the living room floor with our candy all piled into specific categories, trying to bargain and make trades to get more of our favorite kind.
So, as we celebrate Halloween with past traditions such as spooky stories, bottomless amounts of sugar, and creative costumes, start adding your own personal twists to the holiday. The Celtics began it all has a celebration of the end of the harvest season and beginning of winter. We might not wear animal heads and skins anymore, but we do continue the tradition of wearing costumes on that evening. If you want to be the go to house in the neighborhood, make sure to stock up on the king size candy bars. Have a safe Halloween, and watch out for those ghosts!