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What is Halloween: history and traditions of the holiday

What is Halloween and why do we celebrate it? Readers Digest.

Photo: Shutterstock

You think you know what Halloween is, but maybe you don't. It's not always about carving pumpkins and collecting candy.

Collecting sweets, Halloween parties, costumes, pumpkin carvings and haunted houses - if you grew up celebrating Halloween, October 31st has probably always been the way you imagine it, but this holiday has changed a lot over the years.

In fact, if you could travel back in time and observe the origins of Halloween, you probably wouldn't even recognize it.

So before you start your list of Halloween costume ideas, plan your party games, do your Halloween street décor, or brush up on the little things about the holiday.

Read the true story of the origin of Halloween.

What is Halloween

As it stands today in the United States, Halloween is a holiday where we can all dive into the darker, creepier side of life and eat a lot of candy.

It's a lot of fun, a little scary, and not at all serious. However, historically, the holiday was of a religious nature and was of great importance for the culture of the people who celebrated it.

What does the word "Halloween" mean?

“Halloween is an acronym for the Scottish All Saints 'Eve, which simply describes the night before All Saints' Day,” says Brian Sterling-Wet, Ph.D., historian, Halloween expert and author of The Paranormal. Research: The Black Book of Scientific Ghost Hunting and How to Investigate the Paranormal.

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The first records of the holiday date back to 1555 AD.

All Saints Day began with early Christianity. In the 13th century, Pope Gregory III moved the feast of All Martyrs' Day from May 1 to November 1000 and turned it into All Saints Day. Then, in AD 2, the Catholic Church added Memorial Day on November XNUMX.

The night before was subsequently named All Saints' Eve and then Halloween.

At the time, it was a religious day, not much like a modern day. According to Sterling-Vete, the word "Halloween and holiday", as we understand it today, became popular only in 1745.

When is Halloween

In America, Halloween is always celebrated on October 31st. Countries that celebrate Halloween the way we do, like Canada, share one day. However, not everyone is as obsessed with Halloween as Americans are.

Photo: Shutterstock

In England, Halloween is not celebrated at all.

This was the result of the Protestant Reformation. Instead, a completely unrelated holiday is celebrated around this time (November 5, to be exact) in the United Kingdom: Guy Fawkes Day, which revolves around the execution of a notorious traitor, has bonfires, scarecrows and fireworks.

In Mexico, people celebrate Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead.

Although it runs from October 31st to November 2nd, it is very different in tone from Halloween. Yes, people dress up with colorful skeletons and celebrate in the streets, but the point is that the purpose of the event is to honor the memory of the dead and invite their spirits back to Earth at this time, and not be afraid of them.

In honor of the holiday, people also decorate the graves of their ancestors and bring food to let them know that they have not forgotten them.

Why we celebrate Halloween on October 31st

The origins of Halloween date back to Gaelic and Celtic rituals dating back at least 2000 years, and it is from these that we derive the date and the many ways we celebrate it.

The Gaelic Samhain Festival was traditionally held on November 1st to mark the official end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter.

According to Sterling-Vete, the celebrations always began the night before, October 31, about halfway between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice.

It is also based on a three-day pagan religious festival celebrated by the Celts on October 31st in honor of the harvest and preparation for the “dark half of the year”.

Halloween story

The ancients believed that on this day the line between the living and the spiritual realm is blurred - this means that ghosts from the outside can visit the living, and monsters can enter people's homes.

The celebration sought to prevent as much evil as possible. They performed special rituals to keep monsters, witches and evil fairies at bay.

Photo: Shutterstock

They told tales of mythological heroes and the afterlife. And they dressed up as monsters to ward off evil and disguise themselves so as not to be kidnapped or eaten by real monsters.

As Christianity grew in popularity, it added some of the Catholic holidays that fall on Halloween, mixing religious and pagan traditions.

Why? To facilitate the further transition from paganism to Catholicism. And it worked.

Memorial Day included many Samhain celebrations, including bonfires, parades, and costumes, although people now mostly dress like saints, angels, and devils.

Why do we celebrate Halloween

Most of us are not afraid of being eaten by monsters and we don't feel the need to celebrate the harvest festival, so why is Halloween left?

You may be interested in: top New York news, stories of our immigrants, and helpful tips about life in the Big Apple - read it all on ForumDaily New York.

In the early days of colonial America, Sterling-Wethe said, Halloween was a daunting task due to the strict religious beliefs of the Puritans.

However, the holiday remained popular in less religious circles, and as more and more Europeans arrived and mingled with Native Americans, the traditions developed even further.

Halloween celebrations combine with the fall festivals to include festive public events, song and dance, ghost stories and practical jokes.

But it wasn't until the second half of the XNUMXth century that Halloween really became popular in the United States.

Why? Irish immigrants who escaped the potato famine brought their ideas and traditions about Halloween with them.

How Halloween became what it is today

In this new bizarre context, Americans adopted the Celtic dress-up tradition and turned it into what we now call “sweet or nasty”.

By the 1930s, Halloween had become almost entirely secular, and All Saints' Day had become more of a religious holiday.

To this day, some devout people strongly oppose the celebration of October 31 as anything other than a religious day.

In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, Halloween increasingly became a matter of commerce and profit. In fact, Americans will spend over $ 2020 billion on Halloween in 8, according to the National Retail Federation. ...

Halloween traditions

So how is Halloween celebrated today? Costumes, parties, toys, and candy are some of the most popular ways, but there are many fun Halloween traditions out there. Here are some of our favorites:

Pumpkin lantern carving

Photo: Shutterstock

Around 1895, it became a tradition to carve pumpkin lanterns with hideous faces.

They were originally carved from turnips (neep) in the UK, but pumpkins have been replaced in the United States.

“After they were carved, they were turned into lanterns and carried in their hands to ward off evil spirits, and also because in Christian folklore they represent a soul that was denied access to both heaven and hell”, - explains Sterling-Vete.

Fortunately, we no longer carry them with us (freeing up children's hands for more candy!).

Wallet or life

Wandering gangs of costumed kids who go door to door begging for candy is arguably the most time-honored Halloween tradition.

“This custom is directly related to what is called disguise, due to the disguise or costumes worn to hide from evil spirits, and can trace its origins back to 16th century Scotland,” says Sterling-Wete.

The phrase “wallet or life” is meant to jokingly scare homeowners into giving away treats or small toys.

Decoration with skulls, skeletons and ghosts

Fake human bones often look silly on Halloween, but they are a holdover from the very serious fixation of the ancients on the dead returning on October 31 - whether in spirit or with what remains of their mortal bodies.

The skull may also refer to the Christian tradition of Calvary, the hill on which Jesus was crucified. “The skull serves as a reminder that death is always present in life, and of our short and transient human existence,” says Sterling-Wete.

Avoid black cats, stuffed animals, witches

Ghosts or evil spirits were integral to the origins of Halloween, and they live today in the form of black cats, witches, and other creatures seen as omens or personifications of this evil.

Stuffed animals are used not only to scare away birds, but also evil spirits on Halloween.

Apple hunt

Harvesting traditions are almost forgotten in modern Halloween celebrations (or included in Thanksgiving in November), but this classic party game reminds us of our agricultural roots.

Tossing apples was originally a Roman party game and had nothing to do with Halloween at all, but rather true love.

Apples were placed in water or hung from a rope, and each was given the name of a lonely man or woman. Then the unmarried people tried to bite off the apple of the one they wanted to marry.

Halloween Parties

What could be more important for a holiday than a party?

Halloween parties vary in size, from family parties to school-wide parade parties and social extravaganzas.

Parties are usually decorated in Halloween colors like black, orange and purple, and have silly or creepy décor.

Halloween Movies & Haunted Houses

You wouldn't be amused if someone holding a bloody knife was chasing you down an alley on a typical day, so why are people looking for horrific events during Halloween?

Scary situations, including these scary Halloween movies, trigger the release of adrenaline, endorphins, and dopamine - powerful chemicals in your brain that increase feelings of arousal, alertness, and pleasure.

In real life, these neurotransmitters activate your body to fight or flee, but watching horror movies on Halloween allows us to experience these feelings, but in a completely safe place.

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Miscellaneous Halloween traditions Educational program history of the holiday rituals halloween games holiday date halloween celebration in the usa
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