Ever Wonder Where Halloween Traditions Came From

Mina Orlic, Staff Writer

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Whether you call it All-Hallows’ Eve or Halloween, the standard traditions of Halloween haven’t changed much in recent history. The most important tradition, of course, is dressing in costumes and parading door to door asking for sweets and treats. For the longest time, we have just accepted that this is the norm for Halloween, never really questioning how it is that these traditions started. Haven’t you ever wondered why we dress up for Halloween? Or why we go trick-or-treating?

Halloween–the traditions, the folklore, all of it stems from Pagan, Celtic, Catholic and Ancient Roman traditions, according to the History channel’s website (history.com).

According to the official Live Science website, October 31 is marked as the last day of the Celtic calendar and for most Celtic-folklore believers, November 31 was a day that was often associated with the death of life and nature. Halloween is said to have originated from the ancient Celtic and Gaelic festival of Samhaim (livescience.com).

The Celts believed that on Samhaim, or the “summer’s end” in Old Irish, the line between the worlds of the dead and the living became blurred. On Halloween night, they would celebrate Samhaim, because they believed that the ghosts and spirits of the dead would return to Earth (livescience.com).

In order to ward off the spirits, the Celts would wear costumes, usually made of animal heads and skins, and gather together for sacred bonfires where they would burn crops and sacrifice livestock to the Celtic deities. Some historians believe that this is where the idea of costumes originated (livescience.com).

In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III deemed November 1 the day to honor all saints and martyrs. This day was later known as All Saints’ Day which incorporated some of the traditions of Samhaim. The evening before was known as All Hallows’ Eve which was later changed to Halloween (history.com).

In 43 A.D., when the Romans had conquered the majority of the Celtic territory, they combined two of their own festivals with the Celtic celebration of Samhaim. The first Roman festival was Feralia, a day in late October when the Romans traditionally paid tribute to the passing of the dead. The second festival was in dedication to Pamona, the Roman goddess of fruits and trees. Pamona’s symbol is an apple and the addition of this celebration into Samhaim is the most accurate explanation of the  Halloween tradition of bobbing for apples (history.com). 

As for trick-or-treating, this tradition is one that has been traced back to some celebrations of Samhaim when, dressed in their animal skin costumes, the Celts prepared banquet tables with edible offerings left as a peace offering to the unwelcome spirits. As time passed, people began to dress as demons, ghosts and other hellish creatures. They would perform little tricks in exchange for food and drink. This is where we get the phrase trick-or-treat (history.com).

We students realize that no matter how old you are, you can still put on a costume and celebrate Halloween. Freshman Josh Newman said, “I plan on being Deadpool, because I already have the costume.” Sophomore Izzy Milles said, “I’m going to be a dog.”

No matter how old we are, or how much time has passed, the traditions of Halloween remain. Remember to go out and have fun with your friends on the thirty-first and enjoy all the costumes and trick-or-treating that Halloween has to offer.

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