The history behind Halloween

How did Halloween start? The history behind Halloween spans almost 3,000 years!

Here are some tidbits and lore on the interesting origins of Halloween which are not widely known. This can help you start a conversation with a Halloween party guest you've been dying to meet. If you're hosting a party, you can make a booklet on your PC to hand out as party favors.

Illustrated with Halloween icons, Gothic fonts or scary photos adds to its value as an unusual memento and trivia collectible. The history behind Halloween is long and there are some remarkable associations which, over millenniums of practice, survive in some form today.

The Celts were the first Halloween celebrants, around 2900 B.C., although the name of the original celebration was Samhain. The occasion of Samhain was to mark the end of their year, October 31, probably relating to the end of harvest. However, the Celts also believed that the dead had their day each year on Samhain, allowed to roam the earth, sometimes disguised as animals. This put a little spookiness into the harvest season.

The Celts were pagans at this time. One of the customs on Samhain was to collect and exchange food to appease the gods and keep evil spirits at bay. To this end, they dressed in costumes, wearing and brandishing scary masks, designed to frighten off these evil spirits, in much the same way gargoyles were later used on churches. Bonfires were also customary, as an added measure to ensure the evil spirits did not gain a foothold in their community. So costumes, masks, pumpkins and treats were an integral part of the history behind Halloween from the beginning.

Christians converted the pagan Samhain celebration into a Christian celebration of Halloween, followed on November 1 by All Saint's Day. This cleverly served to divert the offerings to pagan gods and point celebrants in a Christian direction. This strategy did, eventually succeed.

Over a period of hundreds of years, Halloween gradually picked up superstitious myths and stories, still hanging on to some of the pagan rituals and ideas. Thus, today's ghost stories around the campfire became part of the history behind Halloween traditions.

While Halloween began as a celebration and ritual holiday for adults, in the early part of the 20th century, the adults started behaving badly, with malicious acts overshadowing the treat aspect. The malicious tricks became so severe, the history behind Halloween might have ended there. People banded together to preserve this fun holiday tradition for kids only. For about 50 years thereafter, adults didn't go trick or treating.

Around the 1980s, adults celebrating Halloween came back in vogue. Although most adults still don't go trick or treating, due to the typically chilly reception they receive, they do attend adult Halloween parties where the host provides the treats and everyone gets into costumes, just as the ancient Celts did.

Say, how about a Celtic Halloween party? That party would turn up some interesting costumes!

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