As we head into Halloween season, we thought it would be fun to share a bit of history behind some of the rituals we know today. Ever wonder where the traditions came from for Jack-o-Lanterns, trick-or-treating, and everything in-between? Here are some interesting facts about the holiday:
Costumes - The origins of the Halloween holiday are foggy at best. It seems to have begun through a mix of Pagan, Christian, and possibly even Egyptian rituals. Historians believe that the actual celebration of Halloween mimics the Celtic’s ritualistic harvest festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-win). This was a celebration of their new year on November 1. And it marked the time of year when the seasons changed from summer to dark, cold winter. They believed the boundary between the world of the living and the world of the dead became so thin between October 31 and November 1 that people could actually connect with the dead. Because of this, people wore masks and costumes after dark to hide from spirits that may have returned. Hence, the possible origin of Halloween costumes!
Day of Halloween - For the next few hundred years, Christianity spread through the Celtic lands, altering traditions and later designating November 1 as All Saints Day. This was a day to honor all saints, and its celebrations incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. October 31, the evening prior, was then known as All Hallows Eve and later became known as Halloween.
Trick-or-treating – This is likely rooted in a centuries-old tradition when people went door-to-door dressed in scary costumes asking for food and drink in exchange for antics. This was known as “mumming.” Years later, poor people were believed to visit homes of the wealthy, begging for soul cakes in exchange for prayers for the souls of the home’s dead relatives. This was known as “souling.” Both of these traditions are thought to be backgrounds for what we now call trick-or-treating. However, trick-or-treating as we know it today didn’t begin in America until the 1920s, when youngsters went door-to-door and threatened to pull pranks if they weren’t given candy. It wasn’t until the 1950’s that this tradition became widely accepted throughout America.
Decorating - Halloween’s symbolic Jack-o-Lanterns trace back to Ireland and Scotland and originally started as spooky faces carved out of turnips. They were placed in windows and on porches to scare away evil spirits. As the Irish immigrated to America, they brought this tradition with them; pumpkins were more readily available, so they began using those instead. The use of orange and black in our decorations is likely tied to orange representing the strength and endurance of autumn’s changing leaves, partnered with black symbolizing the impending winter and its foreshadowing of death.
And there you have a very brief history of Halloween! Add a little embellishment to it, and you could create a very spooky story for the kids who enjoy a little fright with their night.
Wishing you happy haunting this Halloween!
The Creepy Roots of Halloween and Its Traditions!
October 31, 2022