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The History of Halloween

Celtic Origins We Celebrate Today

Note my facts here come from The History of Halloween from History.com

As an adult I look back on so many fond memories of my 1960’s and 70’s childhood, including Halloween. As soon as school began in September we began thinking about and planning for that big day. We always made our own costumes just from found things around the house…never sewing anything elaborate and NEVER purchasing anything from a store.

Halloween When I Was a Kid

Unfortunately my parents were not big photo takers so I have only one photo I know of, of me with my siblings on Halloween. That was the year my sister proclaimed she was going to be the Fairy Godmother and I was going to be Cinderella in rags. Okay fine. My brother was a “hippie” and my littlest brother was a cowboy. It was a time in life when it didn’t take a lot ot make us happy.

With my siblings, maybe around 1970

In highschool and even college we celebrated the holiday with homemade costumes but the trick or treating gave way to parties. Here I’m sharing a few photos I pulled up from those days.

1979 College
1975 High School
At my job 2005
1983 Newlyweds

Halloween When My Kids Were Little

When my kids were little I made their costumes most years and we had a lot of fun with Halloween as a family. In the 1990’s when my kids were young, trick or treating was still safe and the school always had a special event with costumes.

1988
1994
1987
1995

Today fewer kids wander the neighborhoods, but with Covid it’s hard to imagine that communities and malls will be holding their annual gatherings. I feel so sad for the little kids of 2020.

The History of Holidays

I’ve always been fascinated with our our holidays evolved into what we accept today as normal, ever since I discovered that Santa Claus is a fairly new invention. So I have over the years gathered lots of fun information about holiday rituals and their evoloution.

Halloween Began 2000 Years Ago

The origin of Halloween can be traced 2000 years years ago to the Celtic festival called Samhain. This festival was a celebration to ward off ghosts and included costumes and bon fires.

Ghosts were responsible for death and havoc

In the 8th Century Pope Gregory III declared that November 1st would be All Saints Day to remember all Catholic Saints and the Samhain festival the day before became known as All Hallows Eve.

November 1st was also considered the New Year to the Celts and was marked as the end of the harvest and bounty and the beginning of the dark days of winter, a time of hunger and death.

People believed black cats were witches in disguise

The Druids (Celtic Priests) gave the Celtic people guidance during this time, when all believed the ghosts were responsible for failed crops, poor health and bad weather. The Druids built bon fires and everyone dressed in costumes to scare away the ghosts. Crops and animals were sacrificed.

Rome, Of Course, Intervened

When the Romans conquered this region, the Samhain festival merged with Feralia, a Roman festival similar to Day of the Dead; and Pomona, a celebration of the apple harvest (assumed to be where bobbing for apples comes from).

Christianity

By the 9th century the Celtic lands had become Christian and the November 2nd Christian holiday All Souls Day merged with All Hallows Even (Alholowmesse) and the costume tradition expanded.

Ritual bonfires helped ward off evil

Welcome to America

Colonial America celebrated this holiday, despite the New England Protestant objection due to the pagan origins. As immigrants from many nations came together, the American version of the holiday emerged.

Early Jack-o-lanterns were carved from turnips

Outdoor parties, bon fires, scary stories, fortune telling, pranks, games, music and dancing were all part of the early American celebration. By the early 1800’s most communities celebrated an Autumn festival but Halloween as we know it was still a ways away.

Irish Americans Bring the Tradition

As Irish immigrants flooded America in the late 19th century, with them came many of the traditions we today associate with Halloween in the USA. This included costumes, Trick-or-Treat for food or money, and the focus of the holiday became more about children.

Bobbing for apples is an ancient game still practiced today

But in the 1920’s and 30’s vandals hijacked the holiday with pranks and sometimes drunken violence and many gatherings stopped. By the 1950’s local towns redirected the holiday back to family-focused and encouraged family gatherings. Trick-or-Treating was revived.

Today’s Halloween

Small homemade treats gave way to store bought candy in the 1960’s when parents feared for their children eating anything they didn’t know the source of. Today 6 billion dollars are spent annually on Halloween and it is the biggest candy buying time of the year in the USA.

Halloween candy

Both children and adults dress up annually, with many adults wearing costumes to their jobs. Halloween parties for kids and adults happen in the weeks ahead of the actual Halloween night.

Halloween is the second biggest commercial holiday after Christmas in the USA.

And now you know – the history of Halloween.

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