Halloween’s Myths and Origins

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The concept of celebrating something scary can make one wonder how the Halloween current event started. Halloween’s beginnings date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who lived more than 2,000 years ago celebrated their new year on November 1. This area was mostly in the region that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France,

This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31st, they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth to visit their loved and not-so-loved ones.

To ward off evil spirits, the local priests would build bonfires and villagers painted their faces or dressed in disguise to not be found by visiting ghosts.  Some of the locals would keep treats in their pockets to give away as bribes.  Even jack-o-lanterns originated during Samhain, as turnips, beets, and potatoes were turned into lamps to scare away negative forces. 

As Christianity took hold in Ireland, Samhain was renamed as a Christian celebration, but certain pagan elements remained as the beliefs were too ingrained.  Eventually, October 31st became ‘All Hallows Eve’ or Halloween, and the traditions traveled across to the United States with the arrival of Irish immigrants in the 1800s.

In southern Europe and in predominantly Catholic countries, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day were celebrated during this period. All Saints’ Day is a time to honor Christian saints and martyrs while All Souls’ Day is reserved for remembering the “faithful departed.

“At the end of October and beginning of November, Spaniards celebrate three different holidays: Día de las Brujas (Day of the Witches), Día de Todos Los Santos (All Saints’ Day), and Día de Los Muertos (All Souls’ Day or Day of the Dead).  Festival events vary depending on the region; large cities typically host large costume parties on October 31st. Besides religious services, celebrations on All Saints’ Day include street festivals with dancers, vendors, and darker Halloween themes. 

Leave it to the American to up the game on this celebration. Americans Celebrate Halloween every October 31, both children and adults slip into the night as ghouls and goblins, princesses and pirates. Many Americans celebrate the traditions of Halloween by dressing in costumes, hosting parties and telling tales of witches and ghosts. Pumpkins are carved into glowering jack-o’-lanterns. Homes are decorated as ghoulish destinations.

Over 70% of Americans partake in some type of Halloween festivities. And they spend a lot of money for this celebration.  Top spending categories in 2017 include $3.2 billion on costumes, $2.6 billion on candy, $2.7 billion on decorations and $390 million on greeting cards. 

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