Celebrating Halloween Some Traditions Never Fade Halloween is one of the most highly anticipated holidays of the year and has been around in some form for nearly 2,000 years. However, the spooky traditions we’ve grown to love today didn’t become popular until after the 19th century. The origins of Halloween start with the ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain (pronounced sow-in), which is celebrated throughout Ireland. Celebrated on Nov. 1, this festival marks harvest's end and the beginning of winter. Ancient Celts believed that during this transition, the physical world and the spirit world crossed, allowing spirits to roam amongst the living. Ancient Celts believed this crossing impacted the world in several ways, mostly unlucky, such as spirits damaging crops or causing mischief. But they also believed it allowed priests and druids to make predictions, which brought a sense of direction and comfort for the Celts through the dark and cold months of winter. During Samhain, Celts would light giant bonfires and disguise themselves as spirits to confuse those who crossed over. As time went on and Christians began to take over most of the Celts’ lands, their traditions became intertwined. Pope Gregory III declared that Nov. 1 would be celebrated as All Saints’ Day, which honored saints and martyrs and attempted to squash the Celts’ pagan traditions. The Celts, however, thought there was no reason to stop their cultural festivals and celebrated Samhain the day before, which was then called All Hallows’ Eve. When colonials migrated across the sea and settled in America, Halloween was all but forgotten. Protestants who fled England were extremely reluctant to participate in a tradition considered heathen and uncivilized. It remained unpopular until the middle of the 19th
century when, during the Irish Potato Famine, Irish settlers fled their home country to America for a better life, bringing with them their traditions and celebrations like Halloween. Over time, Halloween celebrations evolved from disguising yourself as a spirit and dancing around campfires to the activities we enjoy today. Like most children over the decades, I loved to go out and trick-or-treat as a kid. When I was younger, Halloween was celebrated only after dark, and we would run in packs in our ghoulish costumes, going door to door throughout the neighborhood declaring, “Trick or treat!” at each stop. If there was no sweet treat put in our bag, we would play a harmless trick. Halloween has changed some over the years, but a little mischief still remains! Even though our costumes are a little less ghoulish, I’ll bet that doesn’t stop a few spirits from roaming among the living on All Hallows’ Eve.
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