Ever wonder how
Halloween came to be such a fun day for kids and adults alike?
We trace the history of this holiday from its rather serious
beginnings 2000 years ago to today's celebration of tricks and
trick-or-treating itself can be traced to Irish immigrants who
brought the idea to the United States in the 1800s, other
customs of Halloween date back much further.
The Irish celebration of Halloween
(Hallow "E'en" for "evening") comes from a religious feast -- All Hallows Day,
better known today as All Saints Day. Since the ninth century, Christians have
celebrated All Hallows Day on November 1 in honor of deceased holy persons, or
saints, referred to as "Hallows."
Halloween adopted traditions from a much older Celtic holiday. More than 2000
years ago, the Druids observed a festival called Samhain, during which the god
of the dead, they believed, came back to earth accompanied by ghosts and
goblins. Sound familiar? The Celtic people wore animal skins and animal heads to
hide from these evil spirits, and Druid priests burned sacrifices to appease the
Halloween colors recall the orange bonfires against the black nighttime skies.
Costuming expanded from animals and spooky creatures to saints and, as we see
today, to personalities in the popular culture.
In addition to the
Druid influence, Roman harvest festivals of the first century A.D., especially
one honoring Pomona, the goddess of fruit, also put their stamp on the
Bobbing for apples is
recorded in medieval manuscripts. Today's popular Halloween imagery of pumpkins
and cornfield mazes reflects the Roman tradition of celebrating a good harvest.
The most common
tradition in today's Halloween, trick-or-treating, is a reenactment of Irish
beggars going to the homes of the rich on All Hallows Eve to ask for food or
money. If the rich refused, evil spirits -- so the beggars said -- would destroy
became widespread in America in the 1940s. Costumed children went house-to-house
asking for small handouts, usually candy. In return, no tricks would be played.
In today's times,
families focus on safety, trick-or-treating only at the homes of people they
know. Many communities put the emphasis on costume parades, school parties, and
controlled "haunted" houses.