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The History of Halloween Traditions

Friday, October 11th, 2013

Jack-o'-lanterns
Halloween is definitely an underrated holiday. There’s no denying that it’s a lot of fun, but lets take a second to think about what it means to most people. Eating candy? A party? And that’s about it. For a lot of people it’s a very forgettable holiday. You think about it and then it’s over before you know it. When you stop and take a second to think about it, though, Halloween is really quite interesting. It originates from a Celtic holiday called “Samhain”, which is derived from an ancient Irish word meaning “summer’s end.” And when I think Halloween, I think three major traditions: pumpkins, costumes, and trick-or-treating. Here’s a brief history on why these traditions define Halloween today!

Pumpkins:

Pumpkin carving — a classic part of Halloween. But when you think about it, it’s actually kind of funny. Why do we do we display pumpkins? What’s the point of a jack-o-lantern? Long long ago, people of the Celtic religion would take turnips and use them to ward off evil spirits. They would carve out these turnips and put candles in them, and place them in front of their house. Over time, for one reason or another, we’ve adopted pumpkins as the fruit of choice. And yes, pumpkins are a fruit, that’s another fact for you! As with a lot of Irish history and old wise tales, you’ll never read exactly the same story about the origination about jack-o-lanterns. One old wise tale claims that an old drunken man named Jack had interactions with the devil, and when he died, he wasn’t allowed in heaven or hell. He roamed earth for a night with a turnip and a candle, and so it was Jack’s lantern.

Costumes:

In ancient history, those who celebrated Samhain were celebrating the end of a harvest, and they believed there were two parts to a year; a lighter half and a darker half. In the darker half, people would wear costumes to ward off evil spirits. But they weren’t the costumes you might think. They really just dressed up as people that would be in a church (example: a saint). In the late 1800′s, Halloween started to become more of a party for people to get together. And in even more recent times, Halloween started becoming a “dress-up” holiday. The baby boomer generation was really the start of all the costumes you see today.

Trick-or-Treating:

trick or treating
When you were a kid, you probably remember trick-or-treating as being a wonderful event. Who doesn’t love free candy? But where does it originate, you ask? In the mid 1800′s there was an Irish practice called “souling” and people would walk around villages asking for soul cakes. In exchange for a soul cake, the person souling would have to say a prayer for a dead relative of the person giving them a soul cake. The practice eventually got adapted into the modern day Halloween, and as what seems to happen with a lot of events, the religious aspect got forgotten about. And when America picked it up, it didn’t start as the ultimate candy holiday like it is today. People used to give things like apples, or sometimes money.

Which part of Halloween is your favorite? Let us know!