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A Brief Look At The Hi(Story) of Halloween

Halloween is coming! The time of year for pumpkin carving, scary costumes and spooky stories is upon us. When candles light up in jack o’ lanterns; trick or treaters grab for candy and the veil between this world and the next is at its thinnest…

Halloween, like most festive holidays we enjoy today, has come a long way from its origins. With that being said, let’s look at the hi(story) of Halloween…  

How Halloween Started

Though most popularly celebrated in the US, Halloween actually started on the other side of the world in Europe, long before it was celebrated on American soil. But how did Halloween start? Well, that’s actually a matter of dispute. 

The term ‘Halloween’ is a shortened version of ‘All Hallows’ Evening,’ which is the first of the three-day celebration, ‘Allhallowtide’; a Christian observation that remembers and celebrates the dead (in particular saints, martyrs and other religious figures) with communions and grand feasts. The present date for Halloween was thought to be established by Pope Gregory III in the 8th Century BC.

Despite these connections to the holiday we all know, many historians and practitioners point to the Gaelic festival of Samhain as the true origin of Halloween. Traditionally celebrated in Scotland and Ireland, the celebration marked the end of the harvest season. Like Allhallowtide, Samhain was observed with great feasts, as well as bonfires and offerings to Aos Sí (spirits in traditional Irish mythology).

It was also believed that the veil between our world and that of the spirits was thinnest at this time of year; helping to make Halloween synonymous with the afterlife and those who dwell there… Particularly in Ireland, some observers would carve grotesque faces in turnips to imitate evil spirits as a form of prank (sound familiar?). 

Over the centuries the two celebrations merged somewhat and towards the early modern period, performers would dress in the guise of these same spirits and go door to door, reciting songs in exchange for food; setting the foundations for modern-day trick or treating.

How did Halloween become what it is today?

Making lanterns from turnips; dressing up as spirits, and the association with the afterlife are all traditions of the past that have influenced the present. But how did we get from Harvest rituals and Christian oberservations to candy corn and killer clowns? (…there’s an idea if you’re looking for a last-minute Halloween costume!)

Mostly due to the export of the festivities to North America by Irish immigrants in the 1800s, who bought over many of the superstitions and traditions (like jack o’ lanterns) when they migrated to avoid the Irish Potato Famine. Combining with the community-driven, end-of-harvest revelry that had already started to form in the US, this culmination paved the way for the more secular, celebratory event we now know.

By the 1920s and 1930s, Halloween parties were becoming more prominent for both adults and children, establishing many of the staple games we still enjoy today, such as apple bobbing.

It was the 1950s and the capital explosion allowed by a post-war world where Halloween as we know it today emerged; with trick or treating, Halloween costumes and an emphasis on horror, fear and the supernatural becoming novel commodities. (An estimated $10.14 Billion will be spent by Americans on Halloween in 2021 alone!)

What Halloween stories do you have?

And there we have a brief history of the most divisive holiday ever. Whether you love it or hate it, everyones got a story or two about the spookiest time of year; so what’s yours? Have you encountered ghosts? Or perhaps something happened you couldn’t explain? 

Not only would that story add a bit of fright to your Iternal timeline, but you can enter our Spooky Stories giveaway by submitting your terrifying tale here for the chance to win a beastly bundle – including a Bosch Tassimo. But be quick, the competition ends on 1st November! I look forward to reading your story…