December 14, 2009
By Reanna Lizauckas BRONZE, North Tonawanda, New York
Reanna Lizauckas BRONZE, North Tonawanda, New York
2 articles 0 photos 0 comments

The History of Halloween dates all the way back to 43AD. All the traditions that are in America today represent American philosophy because of different cultures and customs making it a “Melting Pot”. It is celebrated because it marks the end of summer and the end of the harvest.

With the Celts, there were strict religious beliefs on the subject of Halloween. “Samhain”, “All Hallows Day”, “All Saints Day”, and “Celtic New Year” are other names for Halloween. It was believed this day was a day when the living and the dead come together. The Celts said that the spirits were able to return to their lives they lived in the mortal world. They believed that lighting candles would drive away evil spirits that were thought to damage their crops. The Celtics believed in the Spiritual Enlightenment because of their leaders in the United Kingdom called the Druids. They would trick the spirits by wearing animal hides as costumes and would sacrifice animals to do so. The famous “Black Cat” is a Celtic tradition because of the belief the spirits would take over in an animal’s body. To honor their god’s they went door to door to collect food for them. This is where the idea of “Trick or Treating” comes into play. They would also ask for kindling and wood to have the annual bonfire to scare away spirits.

In the 1800’s many traditions formed. The one “Jack-O-Lantern” was brought about by an Irish Folk Tale. The story goes that Jack was a terrible soul that had been banned from Heaven. He had tricked the devil into climbing an apple tree and carving crosses into the trunk. Apparently he had trapped the devil in the tree. When the devil escaped, he did not let Jack into Heaven or Hell, but he was forced to walk the earth endlessly with a piece of coal to light his way, and a turnip that he put the coal into. Today we do not carve turnips, but we do carve pumpkins. Some would even put frightening faces on hallowed out gourds to protect themselves from the spirits.

However back in the 1800’s Irish people would carve and light potatoes or turnips for their Halloween gatherings. When the Irish had a potato famine in the 1850’s, over 700,000 immigrants came to the Americas bringing their traditions and beliefs with them. Today the carved pumpkin is one of the most famous icons for this Holliday.

There were many modern day folk traditions associated with apples. The five pointed star in the middle was a symbol Gypsies, Celts, Egyptians and modern day Wiccans. Apples were the sacred fruit of the goddesses and this came from the Romans. There were games that would be played with them such as Bobbing for Apples. This game was meant to predict the future. Apples were placed into a large bucket of water, and were to be taken out by players using only their mouth. The first person to get out an apple was believed the next to get married. The legend also says that if you carve an apple in front of a mirror it is said an image of your future spouse will appear. When peeling an apple, if the peel was long it was said you would have a long time to live, if it was short your life would not be lived to the fullest.

The “Trick or Treating” evolved from Christianity. “Soul Cakes” were given to honor the dead friends and relatives to help them get accepted into Heaven. People would also go around begging for “soul cakes” because they were too poor for food. The tradition we see today, with children wearing costumes and going door to door didn’t really come about until the 1940’s.

In the 1920’s and 30’s Halloween pranks and mischief were a huge problem. Physical assaults, vandalism, and property damage were done, and groups like the KKK used Halloween as an excuse to do cruel acts. However there were groups that tried to organize events like school carnivals and trick or treat sessions for children, to try to forget these horrible Halloween acts. However, there were some issues over trick of treating with things being injected into candy and razor blades put in the center of the apple. There were warnings on T.V. to check children’s candy before letting them eat it.

Dressing in costumes was a tradition done by the Celtics and English people. They would dress in frightening costumes hoping to get rid of the spirits. They would walk the streets of their town going door to door asking for food or money. There were parties held to make the day more festive and the costumes were more colorful than what was worn during trick or treating. Although the traditions of costumes were not to be worn at parties the fad was spreading fast. Masks were also worn to celebrate the Holliday too.

The Scottish immigrants celebrated this Holliday with fireworks, making mischief, playing games and telling spooky stories about ghosts. The played games that could “tell your future”, called Puicini. The pranks that would go on were mostly done by bad children than done by the spirits.

All these traditions date back to time periods that originated Halloween. They are the reason we have what we have in America today. Without all of these different beliefs and customs, who knows what this Holliday would be like today. It doesn’t matter how you celebrate it, as long as you are enjoying yourself.

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