Halloween is upon us, and just about everyone has different ideas about the origins of Halloween, its customs, and traditions. To do an exhaustive ‘expose’ of Halloween would be beyond the scope of this paper. It may be both interesting and fun, however, to delve into some of the historical everyday occurrences which evolved into what we know as Halloween. First, however, let’s find out where it originated.
Origin of Halloween. Halloween, although it was not called Halloween then, really originated as long ago as 5 B.C., so much of what is known about ancient ‘Halloween’ was passed via word of mouth. The consensus is that Halloween originated in the British Isles as part of a Pagan Celtic celebration called Samhain (pronounced sow-en). The Celts believed that on this day the spirits of the dead rose and mingled with the living. The Celts left food out for the living and wore masks (much like what we do today) to scare off the bad spirits.
Many centuries later, the Roman Catholic Church, trying to do away with pagan celebrations, established November 1st as All Saints Day to celebrate all of the saints who did not have their own holy day. This, however, did not lessen the attention paid to the Samhian celebrations, and they only grew and grew. In the 1840’s, with the massive Irish immigration to America in the 1840’s, Halloween found its way to the United States where it continued to flourish.
The modern name, Halloween, comes from “All Hallows’ Evening”, or in the slang, “All Hallow’s Even”. Eventually, it became abbreviated to “Hallowe’en and then to Halloween.
Trick and Treating. This fun activity was brought to America by the Irish and eventually became popular early in the 20th century. It died out during WWII when sugar was rationed. After the rationing ended in 1947, the children’s radio programs “Jack and Jill”, the Ozzie and Harriet show, and the Peanuts comic strip all contributed to resurrecting this popular pastime of dressing up in costumes and asking for candy at the door. The candy industry on Halloween, at last count, sells over $2 billion in candy which translates roughly into 90 million pounds of chocolate!