The History of Halloween

Halloween is a holiday loved by all for its spooky themes and community involvement. But most importantly, it’s the candy! Most of us here at J. Clarke Richardson Collegiate are “too old” to be trick-or-treating, unless you’re one of the few lucky people who can pass off as a 10 year old. The rest of us are stuck helping our little siblings go trick-or-treating, going to parties, or just staying inside and watching some scary movies. But, have you ever wondered where all the costumes, candy, and the scary theme came from?

It all started around 2000 years ago with the festival of Samhain which occurred on October 31. The Celtic people celebrated the new year on the first of November and it marked the end of summer and the start of the harsh winter. To counter against that, Samhain was celebrated the night before because it was believed that ghosts of the dead came back to Earth making it easier for Celtic priests and druids to predict the upcoming winter. The Celts celebrated this occasion by creating a large bonfire and sacrificing animals and crops to their deities while dressed in the skins and heads of animals. They also predicted each other’s futures, in hopes of a better life.

Eventually, the Christian Church became involved starting with the Roman Empire taking control of the Celts’ land. They created two festivals that combined with Samhain – the first being Ferelia which was known to be celebrated sometime late in October to honour the dead. The second was Pomona named after the Roman god of fruits and trees.This holiday was created to honour Pomona. Then, by 609 A.D Pope Boniface IV created All Martyrs Day on May 13 which was then expanded upon by Pope Gregory III. He changed the name to All Saints Day in order to honour both the saints and martyrs and then moved it to November 1. By 1000 A.D, the Church created All Soul’s Day on November 2 to honour the dead. It was similar to Samhain with a large bonfire, parades, and dressing up. But, instead of animal skins and heads, people dressed as angels, saints, and devils. The name Halloween came from the holiday All Saints Day, it was previously called All-Hallows or All-Hallowmas, and since Samhain was the day before, it was changed to be called All-Hallows eve. As time passed, the name eventually changed to the modern holiday we all know and love, Halloween.

Soon enough Halloween was brought to the west through European travelers. As the culture of the aboriginals and Europeans mixed it created their own form of Halloween, where “Play Parties” were held for the public to celebrate the harvest. Those at the party would dance, sing, tell stories of the dead, and tell each other’s futures. At the time, it wasn’t widely celebrated throughout the country, but soon enough the Irish Potato Famine occurred. Thousands of Irish immigrants flooded to America bringing their culture with them and from that, Halloween was popularized.

By the 1920s, Halloween parties were moved from community centres to homes and classrooms to accommodate the larger population. This also made it easier for adults and children to celebrate Halloween and this time the parties were more focused on food, games, and festive costumes rather than the dead and the future. Trick-or-treating was introduced around 1920 when adults would give children candy and the children would roam the streets wearing costumes. While Halloween may be a fun and spooky holiday for all, we must never forget its history and the community bonds we gain from it.