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A Brief History of Halloween

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I greatly enjoy Halloween because I love sitting out front and handing out candy to the kids that come to the door. I live in a townhouse develop and usually buy enough candy for 100 kids (though some years I do run out).  I especially enjoy the little ones and like asking them what they are dressed up as.  It's good clean fun and not terribly expensive.  My kids are grown so I no longer have a big basket of candy for which to look forward but someday I'll have grand-kids and they can keep grandpa supplied.  I had not thought much about the history of Halloween so I looked it up today and though I would share the results with you.

Halloween seems to have gotten it's start some 2,000 years ago with the Celts.  They celebrated their new year on November 1rst (also didn't know that!).  This day was considered the very end of summer and the end of the harvest.  They celebrated the end of their productive season and got ready for a long, cold winter and apparently they didn't have a whole lot to do during the winter. 

The Celts believed that between October 31rst and November 1rst (at least around midnight or so) was the one time that the living and the dead could mix a bit.  Druid priests were somehow able to use the visiting dead to predict the future.  That probably works as well as anything else, I suppose. 

The night of October 31rst the Celts would burn bonfires and wear costumes of animals and spirits and would tell the fortunes of folks who were interested in knowing how things would turn out for them in the coming year.  We do that on our New Year as well so it's apparently a New Year sort of thing to do.

Somewhere in the 700's AD  (give or take)  the Catholic church moved the celebration of Martyrs (and later, all saints as well) from May 13th  to November 1rst and then to November 2nd.  That part is a bit tricky but they may have been trying to supplant the Celtic celebration.  It was the same sort of celebration with bonfires and costumes only they dressed as saints & martyrs while the Celts used mostly animal likenesses for their costumes.

In the late 1800s Halloween came to America but more as a community festival and not a religious one.. By the early 1900s Halloween had morphed back into a day to think about ghosts and goblins and to play pranks but it was still not a religious celebration. Trick or Treat was revived in the 1930s or 40s and continues through today.

That is a very brief history but a good start.  There is a lot of pretty complicated history which you can read online but I wanted to distill this down to something brief enough that we could all get the point.

erick99 posted Oct 06, 2012

That is one theory. Some other historians claim that root of Halloween is derived from the Roman Pomona feasts that celebrated the goddess of fruit and seeds. As well as others claim it is derived Parentalia aka the festival of the dead.

Acidbaby (rep: 7k) posted Oct 06, 2012


Nice article, Erick - I enjoy reading things like this! It is so interesting to find where many of our modern day traditions originated! I did a paper on it back when I was in school and really enjoyed learning as I wrote. Thanks for sharing this with us. :)

FibroMom (rep: 238k) posted Oct 06, 2012


Celebrated every year and never thought the history. Thanks Erik99 for the brief history.

newguy (rep: 279k) posted Oct 07, 2012