How Halloween Came to America

By Alesha Dodd

October 31 is the night we celebrate the dead, dress up and trick or treat for candy (the best part, just saying). But how did this holiday really become what it is today? (Glad you asked!)

Ancient Halloween History

It all started at the festival of Samhain 2,000 years ago in Ireland, United Kingdom, and Northern France. They celebrated their new year on November 1st – the day summer ended and winter began, which was followed with human death. They believed that on the day before the New Year, the two worlds’ life and death blurred together.

On October 31 they celebrated Samhain which was the day they believed that the ghosts of the dead came back to earth and would damage the crops. They also thought that when they came back, the priest would be able to tell the future. To commemorate the event they would make big bonfires to protect themselves, and they would wear costumes mostly of dead animal heads and skin, and try to read each others’ fortunes. When the celebration was over they would re-lite their hearth fires to keep them protected.

“By 43 A.D., the Roman Empire had conquered the majority of Celtic territory” (History). Over four hundred years of ruling the Celtic lands, the Roman Empire made two traditional Celtic celebrations of Samhain. The first celebration was Feralia – a late October day when the Romans memorialized the passing of the dead. The second celebration was to honor Pomona who is the Roman Goddess of fruit and trees. The sign of Pomona was apples which led to bobbing apples.

On the 13th day of May, 607 A.D., “Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Pantheon in Rome in honor of all Christian martyrs” (History). That’s when the Catholic festival of All Martyrs Day was established. Which later was moved to November 1st and called All Saints Day to include all the Christian saints as well as martyrs.

Later they made the Day of the Dead, which is called All Soul Day, on November 2nd as a day for honoring the dead. Some believe that All Soul Day was created to replace the Celtic celebrations. For example, Soul Day was similar to Samhain – they would have big bonfires and parades and they would also dress up but as saints, angels and devils. All Saints Day was also called All-Hallow or All-Hallowmas. It eventually was called Hallow Eve and then it went to Halloween (History).

Halloween Comes to America

The first celebrations started as “play parties” – holidays held to celebrate the harvest were everyone would dance and sing and tell each others’ fortunes and talk about the dead. The celebration also had people telling ghost stories and trying to scare one another.

Halloween wasn’t celebrated everywhere in the country at first. But later on the country was flooded with new immigrants, and the new immigrants helped spread the celebration of Halloween across the nation. It started out as dressing in costumes and going to house to house for food or money, and later became something huge and now all we get is CANDY!!! I think I would rather have the money. Anyway, I will let you know how teepeeing became: it started with young women who believed that on Halloween they could divine the name of their future husbands by balls of yarn, apple parings, and mirrors.

Soon this festival grew so big that it spread to schools, parties, and the stores started selling decorations and even food that goes with the theme of Halloween.

So all my fellow Halloweeners hope you had fun this Halloween and savor those Kit Kats for me.

~Alesha Dodd

Resources:

History.com Staff. “History of Halloween.” History.com. A+E Networks, 2009. Web. 29 Oct. 2015. <http://www.history.com/topics/halloween/history-of-halloween>.

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