Have you ever thought about how Halloween came to be the Holiday that is now celebrated every year? It is interesting to see the different stories on the creation of Halloween from the students on campus. Depending on where you might have heard different tales from family and friends on the origins of Halloween.
The legend traces back to a Scottish poet named Robert Burns. Burns popularised the term “Halloween” with his 1785 poem named “Halloween.” The term itself actually comes from two words “hallow,” meaning “holy,” and “een,” meaning “eve.”
Halloween originated as “Hallows Eve,” because “All Hallows Day,” or “Hallowmas” is a Christian Feast Day dedicated to all saints. This feast, known as All Saints’ Day, is celebrated on Nov. 1, hence Halloween is celebrated on Oct. 31. It is common for Christian feasts to begin the day before, such as Christmas Eve being celebrated the day before Christmas.
According to historians, what is known today as the more creepy and spiritual aspects of Halloween originated with Samhain, the Celtic festival of summer’s end which was celebrated in Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man.
“I heard that back in the old days many people believed in folk tales and superstitions,” Gloria Houngbeke, a first-year international business major, said. “So because they believed in things such as headless monsters and ghosts and ghouls the people were scared and paranoid.”
According to Celtic mythology, the veil between the “otherworld” and our world thins during this period, making it easier for the spirits and the souls of the dead to return. People wore masks and costumes to ward off evil spirits, which is where the modern tradition of dressing up in different colourful costumes came up.
“I learned one day in school that the mayor of a town came up with the idea that the people should dress up as the creatures and stay up one night, so when they see the creatures they could scare them off or kill them because they are dressed as one of them,” Houngbeke said. “So the villagers did that and they kept on doing it. So that’s how Halloween became a thing, people dress as creatures to blend in with the real creatures in order to kill them.”
How exactly did these two different sources merge? Pope Boniface IV initially established All Saints’ Day on May 13, but according to Encyclopaedia Britannica, it was moved to Nov. 1 – perhaps in an attempt to replace the pagan summer’s end festival.
By the end of the Middle Ages, the two traditions effectively merged into one holiday and All Hollow’s Eve was celebrated at the end of summer. After the Reformation, however, Hallows Eve effectively ceased to be seen as a religious day among Protestants, but continued as a secular celebration in Britain.
In the United States, the early colonists had mostly banned the celebration of Halloween. However, in the 19th Century, large numbers of immigrants came to the U.S., including the Irish.
They brought some Halloween traditions with them, and it gradually became a part of Euro-American tradition itself. In the 20th Century, Halloween became a principal U.S. holiday, particularly amongst children, who enjoy receiving considerable amounts of candy when they go trick-or-treating.
As for the introduction of candy and trick-or-treating, this is thought to have come about from the practice of the British allowing people affected by poverty to ask for food in exchange for praying for a soul. The food became known as “soul cake.”
It is believed that modern trick-or-treating traditions came from this practice and evolved into what we have today, where children will ask for a “treat” so as not to pull a prank or “trick” someone.
There are also some other games and activities associated with Halloween, such as pumpkin carving – thought to have originated from the Irish myth of Jack O’ Lantern, and bobbing for apples – thought to have originated from the Roman celebration of Pomona.
The story of Halloween’s beginnings has many interesting plot points, but it is a story about different customs and traditions from various parts of the world coming together in one place to form something new and exciting for a new generation to enjoy.