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History of Halloween

Halloween has become a favorite holiday for many Americans. Most people think of Halloween as trick-or-treating, dressing up, haunted houses, parties, and more. However, many people are unaware of the origins of the spooky holiday.

Halloween originated from the ancient Celtic people. The Celts lived nearly two millennials ago, in an area that is now modern-day Ireland and northern France. The holiday was originally celebrated on November 1st, marking the end of summer and the beginning of winter.

On October 31st, one day prior to the November holiday, the Celts celebrated Samhain, a holiday in which ghosts returned to Earth. The Celts celebrated this day by building sacred bonfires, burning crops, telling fortunes, and performing animal sacrifices, All while wearing costumes consisting of animal skins and heads.

In 43 AD, the Roman Empire managed to conquer the majority of the Celtic land. Over the next 400 years, two festivals occurred: Ferlia and Samhain. The first day of Ferlia is dedicated to commemorating the passing of the dead. The second day is dedicated to honoring the Roman Goddess of fruit and trees, Pomona. This tradition was eventually included in the celebration of Samhain by bobbing for apples, which is still practiced today on Halloween.

Halloween migrated to the U.S. during the colonial period. However, Halloween celebrations were extremely limited in New England due to the majority of protestant beliefs. Despite this, Halloween continued to grow in popularity throughout Maryland and other southern colonies. During this time, colonies began to change how Halloween was celebrated. Parties were thrown to celebrate the harvest, ghost stories were told, and people performed fortune tellings, as well as song and dance routines.

Halloween was first celebrated nationally in the United States towards the second half of the 19th century as the population grew with an influx of Irish immigrants fleeing the Potato Famine. This resulted in a popularity increase of the holiday. 

In today’s world, Halloween has become a favorite holiday in the United States In 2019 alone, Americans spent a total of $8.8 billion on Halloween-related items such as candy, costumes, and novelties. 

Despite the pandemic altering the normal Halloween traditions, studies show that candy sales are up 13% as of September 17th. 

While the pandemic has continued to affect how people across the world go about day-to-day life, many Americans are still determined to find safe ways to celebrate Halloween. A survey done by The Harris Poll shows that 80% of the general public said that they can’t imagine Halloween without candy, and that trick-or-treating is “irreplaceable.” Even though Halloween will look different this year, many people are finding COVID-friendly ways to celebrate the holiday.

For more ideas on COVID-friendly activities, check out Julia Bileth’s article about favorite Halloween horror villains.

Featured image courtesy of Pixnio.


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