The haunted history of Halloween

Seiya Mutreja, Staff Reporter

It’s Fall! The season of Pumpkin-Spice everything and Halloween. Halloween has been a mainstream American tradition forever, right? Well, you’d be surprised.

Art by Seiya Mutreja

Halloween is thousands of years old. The name Halloween means Hallowed Evening and was originally a celebration of saints (hallows = saints). The oldest known root of Halloween is Samhain, an ancient Gaelic festival. Samhain was the Celtic celebration of the new year. It marked the end of the harvest and the beginning of cold and dark winters that were associated with human death. Due to this, people believed that during this time the veil between this world and the next would become extremely thin. This meant that communication between spirits and humans was a lot easier.

The holiday Samhian had many rituals and ceremonies to connect with spirits and the dead. They had feasts and made lanterns by hollowing out gourds which were later termed Jack ‘O Lanterns. They would make large fires, trying to encourage the Sun to not vanish, and danced around fires to keep evil spirits away. The fires attracted bugs which attracted bats, causing an association between bats and Halloween.

One famous game today, which was once a ritual, is bobbing for apples. Originally, apples were selected to represent a woman’s suitors. The apple that a woman bit into would represent her future husband. Because of this, Halloween was a huge opportunity for matchmaking for young women in the nineteenth century. 

In addition, people used to dress up as saints and recite songs or verses from door to door, much like caroling. Children would go from door to door asking for “Soul Cakes,” which were treats similar to biscuits. Soul cakes were replaced with candy, when candy became mainstream in the US during the early 1900s. Families and adults would give children candies, or treats, in the hope that they would not pull halloween pranks, or tricks, on them. In other words, the idea of giving treats was to avoid tricks.

Costumes were originally animal hides or costumes of saints. However, young Scottish and Irish pranksters once decided to scare their neighbors by dressing up in scary costumes. This became a trend and evolved into spooky, scary, funny and creative Halloween costumes. Once Scottish and Irish immigrants arrived into America, Halloween became a mainstream American celebration.

Halloween today is a vital part of American culture, a celebration that children and adults alike look forward to all year round.