Halloween is finally here and OMG we are so stoked! On October 31, children dress up as Batman, the Joker, Wonder Woman or some other favorite character; go to parties or walk their neighborhoods with jack o’lanterns full of sweets, even on a school night! Plus, we love seeing all the crazy decorations in windows and on front porches.
Adults dress up too, but it takes on more intense dimensions. Grownups who are perfectly tame every other time of the year, get positively Freudian exploring their unfulfilled desires on Halloween. That “dominatrix” is our teller at the bank. Doesn’t that guy in the toga help us at the post office? See, that’s why we love Halloween. It feeds our fantasies.
Going back in time, Halloween is fascinating because it has lots of practices that hearken back to its pagan origins. For example, the Halloween tradition of bobbing for apples reminds us of the Roman invasion of England. As part of Roman paganism, they brought an apple tree, symbolic of Pomona, Goddess of Plenty. During an annual festival, young marriage-minded people bit into apples floating in water. Whoever bit the apple was next to marry, according to beliefs.
But it’s really the Celts we have to thank for Halloween. They were an ancient people who lived in the areas of modern-day Ireland, northern France and in the UK. Halloween’s pagan roots go back thousands of years to the Celtic Fire Festival of Samhain, which recognized the end of the harvest season and the start of their new year on November 1.
During this festival, pagans wore costumes and lit fires to keep the bad spirits away. (Keep that in mind when you’re donning your Dracula fangs!) With the dark nights of winter representing death, the Celts believed that on October 31, the dead returned to walk among the living. Sounds kind of zombie-ish, right?
(And since we’re on this ancestors-walking-among-the-living track, it’s a good time to mention Mexico’s Day of the Dead celebrations on November 2. It’s an ancient tradition practiced by Mexicans, living inside and outside the country. It’s fun, colorful, vibrant and full of cultural relevance. Even if you don’t share Mexican heritage, feel free to paint a skull on your face in bright colors and enjoy the Day of the Dead festivities in your community!)
Fast-forward to the 8th century when Pope Gregory expanded the feast of All Martyrs to include all the saints, piggybacking off the Celts’ New Year of November 1. As Christianity spread and overtook paganism, new observances merged with old rituals to become closely associated with the new faith. A perfect example is Halloween.
The word, Halloween or Hallowe’en allegedly dates from before the 16th century and draws from its early Christian past. In old Scottish, Hallowe’en translates as “All Hallows’ (holy) Even” referring to “All Hallows’ Evening,” the day before All Hallows Day, a solemn occasion in which all of the Catholic Church’s heavenly saints were honored. By the 18th century, Halloween shows up with the spelling we know today.
Eventually, Halloween jumps across the Big Pond. In Colonial America, there were “tricks” through mischief-making and ghost stories told by Native Americans. Although most Americans didn’t honor Halloween because of their Protestant faith, people in the southern colonies as well as in Maryland, did make merry on that day. The biggest change from Halloween’s earliest roots is that it becomes more secular than religious.
By the 1920s and 30s, you’ve got the Halloween parades and parties becoming a major part of the festivities. Unfortunately, communities begin to see some “tricks” as petty vandalism associated with Halloween. This might involve “tricks” with kids throwing eggs or wrapping houses in toilet paper if the children felt slighted on the treats.
But the rest of this story, you know. Accentuated by Hollywood’s version of ghosts, ghouls and vampires, Halloween is the day (or night) we all have come to love.
In this therapy-obsessed world, Halloween plays off our phobias. Killer clowns and antique dolls creep you out? Bats and spiders make your skin crawl? Does the sight of blood make you faint? Don’t go into that room and don’t go out on Halloween. But if you do — look over your shoulder!
On Halloween, be a kid again or take on a new persona. Watch out for ghosts and goblins and things that go, “bump” in the night. Eat as much candy as your tummy can hold. Enjoy feeling totally free for just. one. night. Happy Halloween, everybody!
- 9th century
The Church designates All Souls Day
As Christianity continued to merge with Celtic traditions, historians believe that All Souls Day was an effort by the early church to sanction a holiday that honors the dead without totally doing away with the Celtic New Year on November 1.
- 16th century
"Guising" is the ancient grandparent to "trick or treat"
In Scotland and Ireland, young people would go door to door in their communities, reciting poetry, singing, telling jokes or even doing tricks to get free food and gifts as part of the day to honor the dead.
- May, 1693
Which witch is which in Salem?
The infamous Salem Witch trials' officials falsely accused, then tortured and killed 19 girls, women and men.
- Late 1800s
American Halloween is less religious, more secular
Halloween de-emphasizes ghosts and goblins and replaces them with community gatherings, games, food and fun when newspaper editors and community leaders ask parents to refrain from celebrating anything scary for Halloween.
Kids declare "Trick or Treat" launching a new Halloween tradition
Although the custom of going from door to door asking for treats dates back to the Middle Ages, American youngsters put a new spin on it with "Trick or Treat."
Hand out candy
If you're too old for trick or treating, it's time to return the favor! Don a wig and a mask (but not too scary!) and with groans, howling and chains rattling from your audio setup, hand out lots of candy. Create some serious Halloween fun for the kiddies!
Visit a haunted house
Lose control for a little while in a haunted house. Find out who jumps the most — but no matter how crazy the scene, remember, it's all just make-believe fun! (Or, IS it?)
Enjoy campy fun listening to the original "War of the Worlds"
On October 30, 1938, Orson Welles and his Mercury Theatre on the Air program broadcast a chilling version of H.G. Wells' classic, "War of the Worlds." So many people believed the broadcast was genuine, that there was massive panic all over the country. Invite some folks over, pop some corn, eat some candy and go back in time to listen to one of the great voices play on your emotions right before Halloween!
5 Halloween Facts We're Dropping Into Your Trick Or Treat Bag
"Soul cakes" go way back
The practice of giving “soul cakes” goes back to England in the Middle Ages when the poor or “soulers” went door to door receiving small, round cakes or “souls” during All Hallow’s Eve on October 31 as a way to remember the dead. Giving and receiving soul cakes continues today in other countries including Portugal and Ireland.
Illinois, the pumpkin capital — who knew?
15,000 acres yields over 500 million pumpkin pounds, according to the U.S Department of Agriculture.
Candy corn was literally called, "chicken feed" — seriously?
Candy corn, which looks remarkably as it did in the 1880s when it came on the market, was originally sold as "chicken feed" with rooster images on the boxes as a way to target an agricultural market, according to the "National Geographic."
Look closely at the Michael Meyer's mask in "Halloween."
Have you ever noticed that in the classic film, “Halloween,” the Michael Meyers’ mask looks remarkably similar to William Shatner? Before widening the eyes and painting it white, the iconic look came from a “Captain Kirk” mask the “Halloween” movie producers found in a Hollywood magic shop in 1978.
During WWII, no sugar — no "trick or treat"
With sugar rationing part of the war effort, Halloween was put on "pause" until after WWII. Then, candy companies boosted their advertising after the war, turning Halloween into the next major holiday after Christmas.
Why We Love Halloween
Release your inner ghoul
Halloween gives us a reason to see a different side of ourselves. Whether you go for goofy, or opt for spooky, this ghoulish holiday is the day to don a costume and go wild!
It's an excuse to party
Is there a better day of the year for groups of all ages and cultures to party into the night? Halloween seems to know no boundaries. Whether children bob for apples or adults play "Pin the Tail on the Whatever," Halloween parties are absolutely the best!
It's a night of nostalgia for adults
For many people across the world, Halloween brings back a lot of memories. We get to be kids again but some of us can play out our fantasies. Bottom line, Halloween is a fun night filled with colors, candy and costumes.