I absolutely LOVE Halloween. It is the one time of year that everyone comes out onto the neighborhood streets and actually talks to each other. Everyone dresses up in various costumes and says “trick or treat!” But where did this neighborhood gathering tradition begin?
According to the HistoryChannel.com, Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1.
November 1st marked the end of summer and the harvest. Which meant the beginning of the dark, cold winter. 2,000 years ago this time of year was often associated with human 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 night of October 31, they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth.
Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter.
To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other’s fortunes.
Throughout the years the traditions that once brought hope for a future, turned into gatherings and celebrations. In the United States, Halloween wasn’t widely accepted as the idea of witches and goblins were banned in many of the Northern states. It wasn’t until the late-1800’s when talk about it being a holiday to gather neighborhoods together to get to know each other better really took off.
Come the turn of the century with the hay day of parties for everything, people were encouraged to have Halloween parties not just for adults but for children. Having sweets, treats, and a lot of fun and games. The wearing of costumes has transcended into today’s Halloween but instead of old day of giving out fortunes we give out treats.
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