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Halloween: History of the Holiday

Aug 13, 2008
Halloween, which falls each year on October 31st, is a holiday rich with tradition. In modern times, the celebration has come to include lots of frightening fun, like touring haunted houses, attending costume parties, and watching horror movies. Kids can be seen each and every Halloween donning costumes of Dracula, werewolves, witches, ghosts, and the like, trick-or-treating from door to door for candy and other goodies.

Originally a Celtic festival, Halloween arrived in North America when Irish, Welsh, and Scottish immigrants whose ancestors had celebrated Halloween continued the tradition in America. From there, Halloween has spread into most Western countries where English is spoken, including Western Europe. This is partly due to Halloween's synthesis into American pop culture.

Halloween began as a festival devoted to the link between the living and dead that was celebrated by pagans. The date of the celebration corresponded to the time when the supposed connection between the spirit and physical worlds was strongest and thus supernatural events most commonly occurred. These celebrations eventually came to be called Halloween when the growing Christian church made its activities part of All Hallows Day, also known as All Saint's Day, a holiday who's Gregorian calendar date was November 1.

On the evening of October 31, All Hallows Evening, a vigil was held for the following day's celebrations. All Hallows Evening was eventually referred to as Hallowe'en and finally the Halloween that is celebrated throughout the world.

The celebration of Halloween survived most strongly in Ireland. It was an end of summer festival, and was often celebrated in each community with a bonfire to ward off the evil spirits. Children would go from door to door in disguise as creatures from the underworld to collect treats, mainly fruit, nuts and the like for the festivities.

Foods that the children collected were made a part of games like bobbing for apples and other assorted items or eating apples on a string. Turnips were used to hold candles after having scary ghostly faces carved into them. This lead to the pumpkin carving that has become so popular in America. Kids were also dusted with salt in order to protect them from wicked spirits.

There is no exact explanation of how the trickery of trick-or-treating arose, but it did so in North America. Children in Ireland often did mischievous things during Halloween that would later be blamed on the bad spirits. It seems that this tradition was merged with that of collecting treats.

Kids usually played innocent and clever tricks on adults they didn't like so much, putting commonly used objects of theirs where they couldn't be found on the night of Halloween.
About the Author
It's never too early to start planning your Halloween costumes for this year. Don't wait until the good ones are all sold out. Get lots of creative costume ideas on the Get In Costume website, where you can also get a free copy of my report "The Family Guide To Halloween Safety.".
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