Halloween, which is observed annually on October 31st, is one of the most anticipated holidays of the year. Many families begin preparing for the fun celebration, which centers around dressing up in creative costumes and collecting candy, weeks in advance by giving their homes spooky makeovers. Filmmakers use the occasion to release horror movies, while enterprising entrepreneurs cash in on the holiday with creative haunted homes, corn mazes, and hayrides. So how did an obscure holiday transform into the fun, spooky celebration that we know today? Read on.
History of Halloween
Halloween's origin can be traced to the Samhain festival observed by the Celts, who resided in what is now Ireland over 2000 years ago. Celebrations for the holiday, which was commemorated annually on November 1 to mark the end of the harvest season, began in earnest on October 31st, with revelers dressing up in animal heads and skins and dancing around bonfires.
The Romans, who conquered the Celtic territory in 390 BC, adopted the traditions in 1000 AD for All Soul's Day, which honored the dead by dressing up as saints, devils, and angels. Originally held on November 2, the celebration was later moved to October 31st and renamed All-hallows or All-hallowmas, which later evolved to Halloween. The holiday was introduced in America in the mid-1800s and became an instant hit with residents of the southern colonies. They celebrated the event by sharing ghost stories and dancing and singing in remembrance of the deceased. By the mid 19th century, Halloween's popularity, buoyed by the newly-arrived Irish immigrants, had spread across the country.
The fun Halloween tradition of trick-or-treating dates back to the Roman All Soul’s Day holiday. On this day, residents in need would knock on the doors of the wealthy and offer a prayer for their dead in exchange for small, round spiced cakes, known as soul cakes. "Souling," as it was known, took a twist in Ireland and Scotland, when kids, parading in costumes, began receiving treats in exchange for singing, reciting poems, or performing "tricks." Immigrants from the two countries introduced the fun custom to America in the early 19th century, and the rest, as they say, is history!
Jack O' Lanterns
No Halloween is complete without spending copious hours transforming pumpkins into scary or funny Jack O' Lanterns. This fun custom was started by the Irish, who used turnips or beets for their ghoulish creations. When the immigrants arrived in America, they discovered pumpkins, and since then, carving the orange gourds has become a Halloween staple.
Candy corn, which is believed to have been invented by George Renninger of Philadelphia's Wunderle Candy Company, became popular after the Goelitz Confectionery Company began mass production in the 1880s. The candy manufacturer initially marketed the treat as “Chicken Feed” and sold it in a box that featured a rooster on the front with the tagline, “Something worth crowing for.”
However, as trick-or-treating started to become popular in the 1940s and 1950s, the harvest-themed treat became the candy of choice for rural Americans steeped in agricultural traditions, and a Halloween custom was born. Today, over 95 percent of shoppers stock up on the iconic tri-colored yellow, orange, and white sweet during the holiday.
Halloween celebrations during COVID-19
While the COVID-19 pandemic has put a damper on regular "trick or treating" and Halloween parties, there are many safe ways to enjoy the holiday. Here are a few suggestions from experts.
Host a virtual costume party
Invite your friends, family, and neighbors to don their creative and wacky costumes and join you on a video conference call for a fun-filled evening of song, dance, and a costume parade.
Decorate and carve pumpkins
The age-old tradition of pumpkin carving can be safely conducted outdoors with a group of friends — sitting socially distant, of course— or in your homes with family members.
Seek out, or plan, a "trunk or treat" event
Many cities and towns are offering kids a "trunk or treat" this Halloween. The organized event, usually held in a large public parking lot, entails adults safely handing out treats to young children from spookily-decorated cars. If you cannot find one in your area, talk to your parents and neighbors, and plan your own!
Convince an adult in your family to set up a fun Halloween candy hunt within your house or yard, or even better, get a pinata to rain the treats on you!
Have a spooktacular and safe Halloween!
Resources: history.com, wikipedia.org,