MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) Americans are expected to spend. Superheroes, princesses, Batman and animals are expected to be the kid top-sellers. Dressing up has been a tradition for generations, but how did it all get started? Let me dispel one of the most common misconceptions it wasn t to scare off evil spirits, said Lisa Morton, author of Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween. Halloween dates back 2,000 years ago, when the Celts celebrated Samhain, or the beginning of winter. It was cold, dark, dangerous and you couldn t see, people thought the spirits were out, said Lesley Pratt Bannatyne, author of Halloween: An American Holiday, An American History. But both authors say that is not when people started dressing up. Over the next several hundred years, costumes were common for many holidays. Children would guise throughout the year by asking for food in exchange for songs, dances or prayers. Fast forward to the 1800s, when Halloween become known for pranks. The pranking started getting dangerous during that time, and towns and cities starting thinking about cancelling Halloween.
There was a gradual push from families, communities and civic organizations to change the nature of the holidays from trick to treat. Basically, they bought the kids off with treats and costumes, Morton said. Costumes were mass-produced by the 1930s, bringing us to where we are today в sexy Elvis costumes.
Every year, kids and sometimes adults dress up in ridiculous outfits and storm the streets, on a mission to ring strangers doorbells and fill bags with candy. As kids, we accept trick-or-treating as normal behavior, but the October 31 tradition is really quite strange when you think about it. The traditions and folklore of Halloween are a, Celtic, Catholic and ancient Roman traditions. The holiday is thought to date to the Iron Age (around 800-600 B. C. ), when the Celts and Gauls ruled parts of Great Britain and Northern France. October 31 marks the last day of the Celtic calendar, and for Celtic-folklore believers, Halloween was a day of celebration before winter, which brought the death of life and nature, and the harvest.
Similarly, Gaelic people believed it was important to honor the dead on what was, essentially, their New Year s celebration. They called the holiday Samhain, or the summer s end in Old Irish, according to Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night (Oxford University Press, 2002). When the Romans invaded Gaul (modern day France) and Britain in 1st century B. C. , many of their festival traditions became mixed with those of Samhain. In particular, the ancient Roman festival of Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruits and gardens, was held around November 1, and celebrated the apple harvest. Scholars say traditions from the darker Roman called Parentalia and Feralia, although held in February, were also incorporated as Halloween celebrations spread through Europe. In the Roman Catholic Church, All Saints Day, which is also referred to as All Hallows or Hallowmas, is celebrated on November 1, and is a day for honoring saints and the recently departed.
The traditions came to include practices to ward off spirits and honor the dead in European countries. The British believed fire warded off evil spirits, so churches bought extra dandles and held bonfires in graveyards. The Spanish visited graveyards and consecrated graves with holy water or milk. French monks took a less superstitious action on the day, sending prayers to saints, according Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night. The Irish, however, were really the first to start the. Halloween reached America in the mid-19th century with the influx of Irish immigrants who brought their mix of Samhain, Pomona and pagan traditions. Although the holiday clearly is derived from the Church, Halloween has always been a sensitive subject in terms of religion. Some have argued Halloween is a ritual for devil worship, trying to find evidence of animal or human sacrifice in ancient traditions associated with the holiday. However, the Christian Coalition declared in 1982 that Hallowmass or Samhain were not satanic rituals.
Today, the holiday has influence on many different countries around the world. Because of the French Catholic Church s strong campaign against Halloween, the French did not celebrate the holiday until the mid-1990s, but today, for their La Fete D Halloween, people go from store to store, not from house to house. Children will sometimes ask for flowers or money to decorate tombstones. Germans celebrate, or rather, protect themselves from Halloween by hiding all the knives in their houses, in case spirits with old grudges return to cause trouble. Swedish students get a full week off for Halloween, or what they call Alla Helgons, and adults have shorter workdays. Of course, many countries with a strong Catholic influence, such as Mexico, celebrate the holiday closer to how the Ancients did, with visits to cemeteries to bless the graves and send prayers, according to The Halloween Handbook (Citadel, 2001). This article was provided by, a sister site to LiveScience.