Halloween, or what is sometimes called All Hallow’s Eve, is celebrated in many countries throughout the world. But what is now a holiday all about candy, used to be a sacred day that was celebrated to ward off evil spirits. How did it all begin? And where are some of the traditions from?
Halloween’s roots can be traced back to the ancient Celts. According to the Druids, October 31 was like their version of New Year’s Eve, and November 1 (Samhain) was the real holiday, and was celebrated for what they believed to be very real religious reasons once. Sort of like a funeral and Christmas wrapped up together. Sounds fun, doesn’t it?
Today, dressing up is all about getting candy. But traditionally, on Halloween, costumes were not only to pay homage to those who died throughout the year, but also to confuse Lord Samhain (who was considered the Lord of Darkness by the Celts) as to who he should take back to the underworld.
When it comes to spending, Halloween is second only to Christmas in spending. In fact, last year Americans spent almost $2.6 billion, according to the National Retail Federation, which includes costumes for children, adults, and pets. Add in candy, and we’re looking at $6.9 billion (Oct. 28 being the peak). That’s a ton of candy.
Pumpkins have been around for thousands of years. And while it’s true they are harvested around Halloween, they were never a part of the roots of the holiday because they didn’t exist in Europe (they used to carve turnips before pumpkins as jack-o-lanterns). In fact, they couldn’t be found on that side of the world at all. They’re indigenous to South America. When early settlers arrived in America, they found great use for pumpkins, took them back on ships, and pumpkins became a staple in European countries.
How beggar’s night began is a bit murky. Early versions by the Celts were far from what they are today. But many believe that the original, and somewhat modern version of the practice, of trick-or-treaters were Irish and English children. They would do what they called “souling.” Where the children and poor people would sing prayers for the dead in return for cakes. But no costumes were involved.
Dressing up and going door-to-door (what was originally called “guising”) was first recorded in Scotland in 1895, but probably existed before then. It wasn’t until the 1950s in North America that it became organized and standard. Imagine a night with no little beggars to give candy to… boo!
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