Halloween is undoubtedly one of my favourite holidays to commemorate. It is arguable one of my favourites because it happens to occur within the months of autumn, which is my preferred season, however the whole concept of Halloween has always appealed to me. I determined it would be worthwhile to do some research and understand the origin of Halloween and why it is celebrated, and I gained some insight about this spooky holiday.
Prior to October 31st being categorized as halloween, it was actually a Gaelic festival titled Samhain. Although Samhain was celebrated on November 1st, it took precedence in regards to a day being celebrated between the conclusion of October and the beginning of November. The Irish believed that Samhain represented the day before the deceased returned as ghosts, and in hopes of preventing such ghosts from interfering with their lives, individuals would place an offering on their doorstep, typically food or wine. Furthermore, if they were leaving the premise of their homes on Samhain, they donned masks in an attempt to be undetectable as humans amongst the ghosts.
In the beginning of the eighth century, the Christian church altered Samhain and re-named it All Saint’s Day, also commonly known as All Hallows Eve. From there, the evening prior to All Hallows Day was given the title of All Hallows Eve, eventually transforming into Halloween.
Medieval Britain developed two differing traditions of its own interpretation of Halloween, such traditions being souling and guising. Souling took place on November second, and it consisted of those in poverty begging for soul cakes, which were a type of pastry, in exchange for prayers for their deceased relatives. Guising consisted of the youth donning costumes in order to earn money for singing, reiterating poems and telling jokes.
Halloween was introduced in America in the nineteenth century as a result of Irish and Scottish immigrants remembering their traditions. Today, guising is knows as ‘trick-or-treating’, and in the 1950s Halloween was acknowledged as a family holiday. Apparently, Halloween involved a lot more tricking than it did treating when it first came to America, but in contemporary society it is understood that any tricking typically occurs on Devil’s Night, which is the night prior to Halloween.
I found the history behind Halloween to be incredibly interesting, and I believe it is worthwhile to possess an understanding of the holiday in order to celebrate it adequately.