From communion with the dead to pumpkins and pranks, Halloween is a patchwork holiday, stitched together with cultural religions and occult tradition that spans centuries.
It all began with the Celts; a people whose culture had spread across Europe more than 2,000 years ago. October 31st was the day they celebrated the end of the harvest season in a festival called Soin, that night also marked as Celtic New Year and was considered a time between years; a magical time when the ghost of the dead walked the earth as called as time when the veil between death and life was supposed to be at its thinnest.
At that time the villagers would gathered and lit huge bonfires to drive the dead back to the spirit world and keep them away from the living. But as the Catholic Church’s influence grew in Europe, it frowned on the pagan rituals like sawing.
The name Halloween
In the 7th century the Vatican began to merge it with a Church sanctioned holiday. So November 1st was designed All Saints day to honor martyrs and the deceased faithful. Both of these holidays had to do with the afterlife and about survival after death, it was a calculated move, on the part of the church, to bring more people into the fold.
All Saints day was known as then Hallowmas; hallow meaning holy or saintly, so the translation is roughly mass of the saints. The night before October 31st was All Hallows eve while gradually morphed into “Halloween“.
How the holiday spread
The holiday came to America with the wave of Irish immigrants during the Potato Famine of the 1840s. The brought several of their holiday customs with them including
- Bobbing for apples and,
- Playing tricks on neighbors like, removing gates from the front of the houses
The young pranksters wore masks so they wouldn’t be recognised but over the years the traditional of harmless tricks grew into outright vandalism such as in 1930s, pranks during Halloween became really holiday, as there was such a hooliganism and vandalism.
Trick-o-treat was originally a extortion deal, give candies or get your house trashed. Storekeeper and neighbors began giving treats or bribes to stop the tricks and children were encouraged to travel door-to-door for treat as an alternative to trouble making. By the late 30s trick-o-treat became a holiday greeting.