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Grumpy Old Ganz

A little history about Halloween

With Halloween just around the corner...the history, origin and traditions of the holiday provoked my curiosity. After some general research, I wanted to share with you what I discovered.

The origin of Halloween dates back 2000 years to the Celtic Festival called “Samhain” which was held on October 31. On that night, the living and the dead became obscured to the Celts, believing the ghosts of the dead returned to cause trouble and damage crops. This also marked the end of their summer and harvest seasons which brought in the Celtic New Year on November 1.

They celebrated on October 31 by burning crops and making animal sacrifices to the Celtic deities (gods), along with wearing costumes of animal heads and skins to ward off evil spirits in hopes the harvest would see them through the impending doom of winter.

In 43 A.D., the Roman Empire took over most of the Celtic territory, combining two additional festivals with “Samhain”. The first was “Feralla”, where the Romans celebrated the passing of the dead. The second honored “Pomona”, goddess of fruit and trees, her symbol was that of the apple, which is speculated to have been the beginning of bobbing for apples. That tradition continues today as the kiddies bob for apples at Halloween parties and events.

Around the 9th Century, Christianity reached the Celtic lands in 1000 A.D., with the church adding “All Souls’ Day” that was celebrated, and was similar to “Samhain”. It was an attempt to make it a more “church” friendly holiday by adding costumes of saints, angels and devils.

As time passed the holiday took on several other names such as “All Saints’ Day”, “All Hallows Eve” and finally “Halloween”.

The second half of the 19th Century brought a massive influx of Irish immigrants. They helped promote Halloween on a national level, making it more about community and get-togethers than about ghosts, pranks and witchcraft with more focus on games, food of the harvest and festive costumes.

From 1920 through 1950, communities found an inexpensive way to participate in the holiday and to keep from being tricked by providing treats for the neighborhood kids.

Halloween is now a $6 billion dollar industry, second only to Christmas!



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