History of Halloween

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Kieran Meeks and Emily Christensen laugh together at the “not so scary” pumpkin. Photo by Shay Duncan


Costumes, jack-o-lanterns, corn mazes, trick-or-treating, bobbing for apples—each of these items plays a part  in making Halloween a unique and fun holiday. However, Halloween wasn’t always such a playful, fun holiday.

The origin of Halloween dates back to the ancient Celtic festival of Sanhaim. The Celts celebrated their new year on November 1. This day marked the beginning of the winter season which was typically classified as a dark, cold time of the year and was commonly associated with human death. On the night of October 31, the Celts believed that the spirits of those who had passed on returned to the earth. In commemoration of that day there was a huge celebration. They would build enormous, sacred bonfires to ward off the spirits and would dress in costumes in order to disguise themselves from the spirits. Over the years Halloween and its different traditions have changed and conformed to society’s traditions and beliefs. It is remarkable to note however some of the traditions that have remained constant.

In early American history, there was a strong Protestant belief which limited the Halloween festivities. During this time Halloween took on a “uniquely American tradition.” This new tradition was much more about celebrating with family and friends rather than religious or cultural events. By the late 1800’s there was a push to mold Halloween into a holiday more about community and neighborly get-togethers, rather than the ghosts, pranks and witchcrafts of the past.Although most people no longer expect spirits of those who passed on to return to earth, dressing in costumes, carving pumpkins, participating in corn mazes, and even trick-or-treating are still integral parts of many people’s Halloween traditions. Regardless of how students celebrate their Halloween, we wish you all a very happy one! Happy Halloween!

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