Jamilyn Stutler

Jack-o’-lantern carved by Jami Stutler.

Origins of Halloween

October 22, 2019

The evening formally known as All Hallows Eve, and later Halloween is an annual celebration observed on October 31. History.com stated that, “Halloween originated with the ancient Gaelic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts.’’

On the night of October 31, the Celts celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the spirits of the dead returned to earth.

Country Living states, “Many people believed the boundary between this world and the next became especially thin at this time, enabling the living to connect with the dead. (The jewish religion celebrates similarly around the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur,) which also typically occurs in October and involves saying prayers for the dead. This is also where Halloween gains its “haunted” connotations.”

To celebrate the night of the dead, the Celts built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. During the celebration, they wore costumes, usually consisting of animal heads and skins, while attempting to tell each other’s fortunes.

Past Halloween activities aren’t so different from now. For example, many people were said to dress up as saints and recite songs or verses from door to door. Another popular All Hallows’ Eve ritual was mirror-gazing, as people hoped to catch a vision of their future by looking into the mirror. 

Halloween almost didn’t become a celebration across the Atlantic because the Puritans were disapproved of the holiday’s pagan roots, so they didn’t take part in the celebrations. Once Irish and Scottish immigrants began to arrive in America in greater numbers, the holiday made its way back into the culture.

In American culture over time, the holiday evolved into a day of activities like trick-or-treating, carving jack-o-lanterns, festive gatherings, donning costumes and eating sweet treats. According to Elite Daily, Halloween evolved to this overtime due to the past activities done by the Celts and the way culture is passed down throughout generations.


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