Halloween is a little one of the stranger events in the year’s calendar. We celebrate all things scary, creepy and dress up as our favorite characters. But where did this tradition begin and how did we come to celebrate it?
Halloween originated with the Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced Sow-an), the Celts lived in areas like northern France, the UK, and Ireland. Back then, the day marked the end of the summer and the coming of the cold, dark winter months which was often associated with death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the 31st October, it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. Druids would light large bonfires and the people would dress up in costumes, mainly consisting of animal skins, they would burn crops and animal sacrifices to the Celtic deities.
Halloween celebrations were slow to come to America, however, as the beliefs and customs of different European ethnic groups and the American Indians meshed, a distinctly American version of Halloween began to emerge. Often featuring parties for ghost stories and mischief-making. By the middle of the nineteenth century, annual autumn festivities were common, but Halloween was not yet celebrated everywhere in the country.
In the second half of the nineteenth century, America was flooded with new immigrants. These new immigrants, especially the millions of Irish fleeing the Irish Potato Famine, helped to popularize the celebration of Halloween nationally.