Halloween is actually an European festival celebrated each year on October 31.
The Celts who were an ethnic group of people lived 2000 years ago particularly in the regions of Ireland, United Kingdom and Northern France started the festival of Samhain.
October end marked the end of summer and the harvest, which means the beginning of dark and cold winter. Thousands of years ago winter was a frightening time where food supplies often ran low, people afraid of dark and there was also unknown illnesses. This extreme weather change saw a lot of human death.
The Celts had a superstitious belief that the barrier between our world and the world of ghosts and spirits got really thin. This led the people who dead returned to Earth as deadly creatures.
Samhain was celebrated with two popular beliefs,
- For scaring away the wandering ghosts by lighting bonfires with crops, wearing costumes consisting mostly animal skins and heads.
- Celts believed in prophecies. So the presence of otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Celtic priests to make predictions about the future. To avoid being recognized by the ghosts, they wore masks and costumes so that the ghosts would mistake them for fellow spirits. Food and drinks were placed outside the home to please the ghosts so that they would not enter inside.
New traditions like apple bobbing, fearing black cats as they were considered disguised witches, carving Jack O'Lanterns were added when Celtic lands were conquered by different empires.
Root vegetables like turnips, potatoes, beets were the original Jack O'Lanterns. But the Irish later discovered pumpkins were bigger and easy to carve out.
Halloween entered America with Irish immigrants in the 19th century.
Americans borrowed the European tradition and turned it into a joyous celebration.
Parents were encouraged by newspapers and media to take anything 'frightening' out of Halloween celebrations.
Halloween lost its superstitious color by 20th century. The celebrations included play parties, public gathering events, singing and dancing, Halloween costume parties.
Old practice of trick-or-treating was also revived where families could prevent the tricks played on them by providing small treats to neighborhood children. Halloween become more like a community celebration.
Hollywood movies and cartoons gave birth to new characters like witch, fairy, the mummy, vampire, black cat, clown and so on.
With the new born American tradition, they spend $6 billion annually on Halloween making it the second largest commercial holiday after Christmas.
The drastic popularity of Halloween is spreading worldwide each year.