Halloween: The History - Deepstash

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Ancient Origins of Halloween

Ancient Origins of Halloween

Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, in the area that is now Ireland. On the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth.

During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other’s fortunes.

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All Saints' Day

All Saints' Day

  • On May 13, 609 A.D., Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Pantheon in Rome in honor of all Christian martyrs and the Catholic feast of All Martyrs Day was established. Pope Gregory III later expanded the festival and moved the observance from May 13 to November 1.
  • The influence of Christianity spread into Celtic lands, where it gradually blended with and supplanted older Celtic rites. In 1000 A.D., the church made November 2 All Souls’ Day, a day to honor the dead. It was probably done to replace the Celtic festival.
  • All Souls’ Day was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels and devils. The All Saints’ Day celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas, and eventually, Halloween.

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Halloween Comes to America

Halloween Comes to America

The celebration of Halloween was limited in colonial New England, but as the beliefs and customs of different European ethnic groups and the American Indians meshed, a distinctly American version of Halloween began to emerge.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, America was flooded with Irish immigrants, fleeing the Irish Potato Famine. This helped to popularize the celebration of Halloween nationally.

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History of Trick-or-Treating

History of Trick-or-Treating

Borrowing from European traditions, Americans began to dress up in costumes and go house to house asking for food or money, a practice that eventually became today’s “trick-or-treat” tradition.

In the late 1800s, there was a move in America to mold Halloween into a holiday more about community and neighborly get-togethers than about ghosts, pranks and witchcraft.

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Halloween Parties

Halloween Parties

  • By the 1920s and 1930s, Halloween had become a secular but community-centered holiday, with parades and town-wide Halloween parties featured entertainments.
  • Between 1920 and 1950, the centuries-old practice of trick-or-treating was also revived. It was an inexpensive way for communities to share in the celebration.
  • Today, Americans spend an estimated $6 billion annually on Halloween.

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All Souls Day and Soul Cakes

All Souls Day and Soul Cakes

“Trick-or-treating” probably dates back to the early All Souls’ Day parades in England.

During the festivities, poor citizens would beg for food and families would give them pastries called “soul cakes” in return for their promise to pray for the family’s dead relatives.

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