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Do You Know The History Of Halloween?

Oct 11, 2007
Over 2000 years ago the Celts, who lived in what is now known as Ireland, began a haunting tradition. November 1st was considered New Year's Day for the Celts and they also celebrated this day's eve. On October 31st (or Samhain) the worlds of the dead and the living became one as the dead came back to earth and the Celtic priests to announced predictions about the future.

To celebrate this day, Celts wore costumes and attempted to tell each other's fortunes. However, when the Romans conquered this territory, the Roman holiday of Feralia (a holiday commemorating the dead) was combined with the Celtic Samhain. After the Romans, Christian influence changed the celebration once again. Pope Boniface IV declared November 1st All Saint's Day to honor saints and martyrs, apparently in an attempt to replace Samhain.

All Saint's Day was also referred to as All-hallows, or All-hallowmas from the Middle English term for All Saint's Day. Eventually the eve of this day was called All-hallows Eve, a name that would one day turned into Halloween. Eventually All Soul's Day was added on November 2nd, and the three days together became known as Hallowmas.

When coming to America, Europeans brought their Halloween traditions along. These traditions came together with the celebrations of American Indians and other ethnic groups, creating a uniquely American version of the holiday. Early celebrations were usually public events full of dancing, singing, and storytelling.

The late 19th century immigrants brought new twists to the Halloween tradition. These immigrants began to dress up on Halloween and go house to house asking for much needed food or money, which eventually turned into modern day trick-or-treating. The Irish brought along jack-o-lanterns that originated as coals or small candles inside turnips to ward off evil spirits. Once the Irish discovered pumpkins were easier to carve, the tradition began.

By the 1920s and 30s, Halloween became a community celebration with parades and parties. However, vandalism also became more and more popular. Into the 1950s, Halloween celebrations moved from the community to the classroom and the popular tradition of trick-or-treating began to take hold in order to bribe vandals with candy to stop performing "tricks."

Witches became associated with Halloween due to a European belief that witches would gather each year to celebrate and worship the devil. It was also believed if one wanted to meet a witch he should wear his clothes inside-out and walk backwards on Halloween night and a witch would appear at midnight!

Another interesting Halloween superstition from the Welsh- when someone sneezes, his soul leaves this body! This was particularly dangerous on Halloween as it was said to be the night when the souls of the dead roamed free. It is from this superstition that the phrase "God Bless You" originated.

Surprisingly, love was also highly associated with Halloween, especially in the early days of Halloween celebration. It was believed that a girl would be able to get a glimpse of her future husband through a number of ways on Halloween night. One superstition suggested if a girl caught a snail and locked it in a flat dish on the night, the first letter of their sweetheart's name would appear in the morning.

Other myths included putting fresh rosemary and a silver coin under a girl's pillow on Halloween. Doing this would allow the girl to see her future husband in a dream that night. Girls who carried a lamp to a body of spring water on Halloween would see their husbands' reflections in the water, and carrying a broken egg in a gourde of spring water during the day was suppose to bring images as well. It was said doing this would not only allow the girl to see her future husband, but also her future children.

The holiday grosses as much as $4 billion dollars a year, second only to Christmas in spending. About $50 million is spent simply on greeting cards, which is far more than in the 1900s when the first Halloween greeting card appeared. Candy sales top off the Halloween spending at $1.93 billion, which is more than Easter, Valentine's Day and Christmas. Due to Halloween, one fourth of all candy sold is purchased between September 15th and November 10th each year.

While Halloween has since evolved from its beginnings, this holiday still centers on family and community. Most neighborhoods have trick-or-treating, allowing for neighbors to go door-to-door to see each other throughout the night. Although some "haunted" house may appear to give a scary edge, most remain family-friendly and fun. Get in the spirit this year by dressing up, throwing a party, or even just buying some candy for those trick-or-treaters. Happy Halloween!
About the Author
Charlotte Beulow is a contributing writer for Access My Library. AccessMyLibrary.com is a service of Gale. Best known for its accurate and authoritative reference content as well as its intelligent organization of full-text magazine and newspaper articles, the company creates and maintains more than 600 databases that are published online, in print, as eBooks and in microform. Visit Access My Library a href="http://www.accessmylibrary.com">accessmylibrary.com.
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