Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Origin of Halloween

Ghosts and witches and goblins, BOO!

Halloween was never my favorite holiday. I can’t honestly say I remember any particular Halloween. I mean, seriously, we dressed up, we went trick or treating, we came home and we ate our candy. Okay, not all of it at once, my mother did ration it.

Does anyone even know how this holiday got started?

Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). Over 2000 years ago the Celts celebrated their new year on Nov. 1st. It marked the end of summer and the beginning of the cold winter, a time often associated with death. They believed the night before the New Year the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. They believed the ghosts of the dead returned to earth on Oct. 31st and caused trouble and damaged crops. To commemorate the event they built huge sacred bonfires and people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices. During the celebration the Celts wore costumes and attempted to tell each other’s fortunes.

By the 800s the influence of Christianity spread into Celtic lands. Pope Boniface IV designated Nov. 1st as All Saints Day, also called All –hallows and the night of Samhain, became All-hallows Eve and eventually Halloween.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, new immigrants flooded America. Millions of them Irish fleeing Ireland’s potato famine of 1846, and they helped to popularize the celebration of Halloween nationally. From Irish and English traditions, Americans began to dress up in costumes and go house to house asking for food or money, a practice that eventually became the ‘trick or treat” tradition of today. By the late 1800s Americans molded Halloween into a holiday about community get-togethers, rather than about ghosts, pranks, and witchcraft. At the turn of the century, Halloween parties (both for young and old) became the most common way to celebrate with games, food and festive costumes. Newspapers and community leaders encouraged parents to take away the frightening and grotesque aspect out of Halloween celebrations. Most of Halloweens superstitious and religious overtones disappeared because of that effort.

By the 1920s and 30s, Halloween was more a secular, community-centered celebration with parades and town parties. Unfortunately, despite the effort of schools and communities, vandalism began to plague the celebrations, but by the 50s, town leaders had successfully limited vandalism and Halloween became a holiday directed at the young. Parties moved from civic centers into the classrooms where they could be accommodated more easily.

Today, America spends an estimated $6.9 billion annually on Halloween, making it the second largest commercial holiday. For me, well, while I enjoy watching the little ones trick or treat, but I much prefer Christmas.

As the second youngest of six children, Roseanne always had a vivid imagination and loved to make up stories. An avid reader, she often dreamed of becoming a writer. She started writing when her children were young, but only began submitting her work about six years ago. During a Book Club meeting, Roseanne admitted her dream to write. Members of her Book Club encouraged her to pursue her writing and to submit her work. The rest, as they say, is history.

Although Satin Sheets was her first published novel, Roseanne has over forty articles and stories published in magazines – Good Old Days, Nostalgia, and Ohio Writer and several online publications, as well as several books at Red Rose Publishing. She also teaches writing courses for Long Story School of Writing .

Look for Roseanne’s books beginning in March 2011 at MuseIt Up Publishing.

You can learn more about Roseanne from her website or her blog


Anonymous said...

Somewhere in the history of Halloween in the US, is the name,Juliette Gordon Low (the founder of Girl Scouts). She had something to do with the tradition of celebrating it here. I remember that from my early G.S. days.

Roseanne Dowell said...

In my research, I didn't see anything about her. Thanks for posting and I hope you join the reader's group.

Karen McGrath said...

Interesting origins, Roseanne. I seem to recall some other things in Israel that I'm trying to research now. Will let you know if I find it!

Killarney said...

I agree with you Roseanne (at the risk of really ticking off Bonella) I prefer Christmas myself. Even though my 5 kids go to a Catholic school we do trick or treat, we just don't allow them to wear gruesome costumes.

Anonymous said...

Christmas is my favorite holiday too. Sorry Bonella! Halloween is just another day around here. Every year we get fewer and fewer trick or treaters, although if Bonella came to visit, I bet we'd be the hit of the neighborhood!