If you’re like me, it’s spooky season all year round, but have you ever wondered when it all started? Or who started it all? Let’s look at the history of Halloween with these haunting facts!
Spooky season is upon us and so is a Bookstr history lesson! Halloween hasn’t always just been fun costumes and our favorite candies. The holiday has evolved quite a bit over the centuries and we are going to explore the history of Halloween.
Where did it start?
The spook holiday goes by many names including All Hallows’ Eve, Hallowe’en, and All Saints’ Eve. Most notably, though, many say the holiday traditions originated from Samhain. This Gaelic festival is one of many Celtic harvest festivals believed to have pagan origin. Some believe that on this night the veil between the living and the dead is the thinnest.
During Samhain, people built bonfires and danced around them in costume consisting of mostly animal heads and skin to ward off ghosts. The costumes meant the ghosts wouldn’t recognize them! Samhain took place over 2,000 years ago in what we now know as Ireland, the United Kingdom, and France. Seems just a smidge different than ours, don’t you think?
There isn’t really much that is concretely known about this time. Some say it isn’t pagan at all, but originated as All Saints’ Day with Christian roots. On November 1 in the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated the day to honor saints. The holidays eventually started adapting traditions from each other. The holiday was mostly celebrated in Ireland and Scotland and was brought to the United States in the early 19th century by Scottish and Irish immigrants.
How did Halloween look after the 19th century?
Halloween looked a little spookier than it does now. People definitely weren’t dressing up as Marvel characters.
Before there were all the classic Halloween figures we have now, people would make masks out of clay or dress up as generally spooky things like a witch, ghost, etc. The holiday was also very isolated to a few areas. The whole country wasn’t celebrating just yet. It wasn’t until the second half of the 19th century that it began to spread nationally.
Here’s a fun fact: According to History, Americans spent $490 million on pet costumes in 2019. That’s a lot of dressed up fur-babies!
All the candy and decorations:
Did you know we say ‘Trick or Treat’ to imply we will absolutely cause mayhem and mischief if you deny us a treat? People also used to ask for money instead of food! This actually used to be a very controversial part of the holiday. Some believed the night was too focused on death and mayhem, while others just saw things as harmless pranks. Eventually things migrated away from destruction and chaos on the night and turned into a more community friendly time.
People began having parties for adults and kids as a fun and inviting way to celebrate the spooky day. During the 1920s and 1930s is when these parties really became popular. There were parades and parties big enough for the entire town to enjoy.
Did we forget anything?
And by this I mean, what about the traditions we don’t really practice anymore for the holiday?
There are actually quite a bit of things that people practiced earlier on. It is said that during the 18th-century in Ireland, a matchmaking cook would bury a ring in a bowl of potatoes. Whoever found the ring would find true love.
Before we carved Jack-o-Lanterns, people carved hollowed turnips and lit them with a candle to honor the tale of ‘Jack of the Lantern’. Sound familiar?
In the mood for more spooky content? Click here to read Bookstr’s favorite spooky season book tropes (with book recs too)!