Halloween has been around for over 2,000 years according to the book Halloween: An American Holiday, an American History and is believed to have come from Ireland; the Celtic communities that lived there celebrated a new year and the coming of winter on the 1st of November. The celebration was called the Samhain and could be classed as an equivalent to New Years Eve. There was also a more sinister era at that time of year as it was believed that the boundaries of the living and the dead could cross and spirits could walk the earth.
There are now many things that represent Halloween like the black cat, jack-o-lanterns, costumes and candy all have descended from the different traditions and cultures. A black cat crossing your path is supposed to bring you luck as any other time of the year it is a bad omen. Jack-o-lanterns are to welcome visitors to drop by as the Celts did with fires to welcome the spirits to warm themselves before the turn of the seasons. Costumes have originated from the druids that used to dress up and dance around the fire to welcome good spirits and scare of evil entities, the Irish and Scottish adapted this concept into dressing up as ghouls. Now it seems that any film character will do as a costume, it will be interesting to see how they have adapted in 50 years.
Trick-or-treating is the biggest part of the Halloween celebrations and comes from poor children in the ninth century knocking on doors for a type of scone called a soul cake. It was believed that if you handed out soul cakes your soul would be protected for the next year to come. It is also rumored that leaving bowls of candy on the porch would ward off evil spirits.
So why do we celebrate Halloween? It is originally to mark the change of the sessions and the start of a new Celtic year. Now the emphasis has been put on the spirit side of things and we take great pleasure in dressing up in scary outfits and trying to frighten our neighbors into giving up their candy. As usual it is an old tradition that has gone through the centuries picking up the odd bit of extra along the way. Spinning it into a fun day for the kids and us adults as well, with the excuse to dress up and party and play silly party games who would change it?
Book – Halloween: An American Holiday, an American History