13 Days Til Halloween – History of all Things Halloween

With only 13 Days left til Halloween I thought it might be fun to find out why we do the traditions we do each year for Halloween. Boy is this more complicated then it sounds. Tons of websites are out there with information but what do I post?! Keep in mind I am doing this for fun, so don’t quote me boy I ain’t said *#@!.

Why do we celebrate Halloween?

Halloween started in Ireland over 100 years ago and the Celtic Irish believed that summer ended on October 31st and the new year started. This was the only night that there weren’t any boundaries between the living and dead. Spirits of the recently deceased could enter a body of the living as their one shot at the afterlife (still with me). The living did not want to be possessed by these spirits (ah, no duh) so they would dress up in devilish costumes, extinguish all of their lights and create havoc in their towns to scare away the spirits. Years later the English got in on the act October 31st then became known as All Hallows Eve the night before All Saints Day, where they had a celebration in honor of their saints. As spirit possession became less prominent, the English would then dress up as witches or ghosts in a more celebrational manner. (All of this makes me want to go out on October 31st.)

Why do we carve pumpkins and wear costumes?

Pumpkin carving originated with the Celts, a carved pumpkin with a light inside is supposed to ward off evil spirits that roam the earth on All Hallows Eve. The Celts did not use pumpkins, instead they used turnips (thank god they discovered pumpkins, they seem much easier than a turnip). They are sometimes called Jack-o-Lanterns because of an old Irish legend. They are named for a gentleman named… Jack, he was a smart, lazy, gambling, selfish lad. When he died he wasn’t accepted into hell, instead the devil gave him a turnip with a burning coal inside to light his way while he wandered the earth. Pleasant, no?!

Why do we trick or treat?

There are several thought to be reasons why we trick or treat but this one seemed the least whimsical. A ninth century European custom they called Souling is souly to blame. On November 2nd which happens to be All Souls Day, Christians would wander from town to town begging for soul cakes. Soul cakes are square pieces of bread with currants. The more soul cakes they collected the more prayers they would promise to say on behalf of the dead relatives of the soul cake givers. It was believed that the dead remained in limbo after death and that prayer could help a soul reach heaven.

Really though there is no mention of trick or treating here in the US until 1939. But there were several mentions of pranks and vandalism in connection with Halloween festivities since the 1800’s, so it’s thought that adults started the tradition of handing out sweets and treats in order to keep order in their towns instead of trouble.

There you go. Some background information on Halloween.


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