The spookiest night of the year is here! Halloween is the second most popular holiday, behind only Christmas, and soon a bunch of monsters will be ringing your doorbell asking for candy. There are so many things people love about Halloween. The colder night and the colors of the leaves, carving pumpkins, watching scary movies and of course, dressing up in a new costume. Halloween really is a holiday with several traditions but where did all these traditions come from?
Halloween traditions can largely be traced back to ancient people known as the Celtics. These ancient peoples occupied areas in what is now the UK, Ireland and parts of France. The Celtic people were highly superstitious and they’re livelihood largely relied on the success of their crops. The Celtics celebrated the Festival of Samhain to mark the end of the harvest season in the days of light and the beginning of the dark days (winter). The Celtic new year actually began on November 1st.
During the festival of Samhain, the Celtics believed evil spirits were free to roam the Earth for one night to wreak havoc. It became customary to wear masks or coverings to avoid any spirit with bad intentions. It was even assumed to try and look “already dead” to trick the ghostly spirits that they were one of the ghosts roaming freely for the night. These are the most easily traced roots of the tradition of dressing in costumes on Halloween.
When you think of Halloween, the image of bats might pop into your head. Is this because they are scary creatures? Not necessarily. During the Festival of Samhain, the Celtics would have large bonfires. The bonfires were thought to be a cleansing ritual and would throw the bones of recently slaughtered livestock into the flames. Many insects and rodents were attracted to the large fires for the heat, in turn the insects and rodents then attracted many bats. The association between bats and Halloween may be due to this ritual.
The Celts would use turnips and create makeshift lanterns out of them. They used turnips because they were readily available to them. They likely carved these faces on the turnips again to ward off evil spirits.
Trick or Treating
Trick or treating may go as far back as the middle ages when during Christmas time, the poor would go door to door begging for food. Another custom known as “souling” was essentially the same thing. On All Saints Day the poor would go door to door begging for food in exchange for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day.
For an extra fun read check out The Legend of Jack O’Lantern here http://www.history.com/topics/halloween/jack-olantern-history