The Eerie, Ghostly History of Halloween 👻

Halloween is an event that takes place between fall and winter, plenty and paucity, life and death; a time for celebration and superstition. It is thought to have originated from the Celtic festival of Samhain that is characterized by people wearing costumes and lighting bon fires to ward off roaming ghost. In the 18th century, Pope Gregory III marked out November 1 to be day to celebrate all saints and martyrs. It was known as All Saints’ Day and it also incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain.

The evening before this day was known as the Hallows’ Eve and was later adopted as the Halloween. The event later evolved into a community-based secular event that involved many activities like. The period of the Halloween is the season when the day gets shorter and the night gets longer. As a way of leaving summer and ushering in winter people organize various costume events and gatherings.

stone circlesThe Halloween dates back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. The Celts lived 2,000 years ago in present day Ireland, United Kingdom, in Northern France. They celebrated their New Year on the November 1. This day marked the end of summer and harvest and the beginning of winter, cold and dark which was commonly associated with human death. They Celts believed that on the eve of the year being October 31, the boundary between the land of the dead and living became blurred, and the spirits of the dead tend to return to earth on this night. Asides damaging crops and causing trouble the Celts believed that the presence of other world spirits helped the Druids and other Celts priest to make predictions about the future.

To commemorate this event, the Celts built huge sacred burn fires where they burnt crops and animals to the Celt deities. Costumes were worn which comprised of animal heads and skin while attempting to tell each other’s fortune. When the celebration is over they relight their lights which was extinguished in the evening, this was to protect in the coming winter.

The Roman Empire conquered the Celtic territory in 43 AD and within the 400-year rule they incorporated two more festivals to the Samhain festivals. The first was Feralia, which was a day in late October when the Romans celebrated the passage of the dead. The second was a day to honour Pomona, the goddess of trees and fruits. The symbol of Pomona is the apple this explains why bobbing of apples is now practiced in the Halloween.

The Halloween was commonly practiced in the colonial era of New England because of the rigid nature of the Protestant belief systems. It became common in Maryland and other Southern colonies. As the culture of European communities and American Indians meshed, an American version of the Halloween later emerged.  The first events included play parties organized to celebrate the harvest, where people would share stories of the dead, tell each other’s fortune, dance and sing. The colonial Halloween celebration featured telling stories of the dead and other mischief making of all kinds. By the middle of the 19th century, there were celebration in autumn but the Halloween was not celebrated all over America.


By the 1920s and 1930s the Halloween had become a secular, community-centered holiday with parades and parties as featured in entertainment.  Despite efforts by schools and communities, vandalism became part of the celebrations. The Halloween has become an event that is directed towards the young people. Between the 1920 and 1950, the centuries-old practice of Treat or treating was revived which was a way for communities to tell about their Halloween experience. This new tradition has continued to grow in America yearly.

Today, Americans spend an estimated $6 billion for Halloween celebrations making it the country’s second largest commercial holiday. Also one quarter of all the candies sold in the US annually are purchased for the Halloween.

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