Halloween, celebrated on October 31, is one of the most highly anticipated holidays by children and young adults. The kids can’t wait to get a sugar high off of candy, and the adults can’t wait to go to dress-up Halloween parties with their friends. But if some actually knew the roots of Halloween, they may change their mind about celebrating.
The Roots/How it’s Evolved
The origins of Halloween go back to the ancient Celtic festival called Samhain, which represented the beginning of the “darker half” of the year. Samhain was celebrated from October 31 to November 1. Halloween started with the Celtics, they thought it was a time for ghosts/spirits to haunt. They believed that Samhain was when the good spirits and bad spirits overlapped. The Celtics, because they thought demons were running loose, would wear costumes to make themselves look like demonic figures. This was so that the real demons would overlook them. That’s where the origin of today’s modern costumes came from. Then when Christianity spread from the Middle East to Britain, October 31 became the eve of All Saints’ Day. This change created a stronger feeling of safety for the people, since it was previously a demonic day of worship. Then, finally, the incorporation of trick-or-treating and dressing up came into sight.
The Celtics were a European group of people that acted as barbarians. At least that’s what the Romans and Greeks called them. The Celtics appeared in 7th and 8th century BC but were expanded greatly in the 3rd to 5th century BC. They originated from and occupied Europe, north of the Alps. The Celtics were polytheistic and lived in small stone dwellings. They were very ritualistic, an example is called bull sleep. In this ritual a person was chosen and fed bull flesh and then were enchanted to sleep. When they woke they would be the prophecy and the next king. They were well-known for witchcraft and magical beliefs.
Due to Samhain, the Celts would dress up as evil spirits so that the demons that were lurking their villages would overlook them. This started the tradition of dressing up. From a younger age until about high school a kid loves to dress up as his/her favorite superhero or villain. Some common costumes are witches, pirates, animals, and sports players. Even some adults still dress up, most to go to parties and hang out with friends. But some adults dress up with their children to have a good old laugh, or maybe the child made them! Halloween would not be what it is today without witches and pirates roaming through the streets on October 31.
“Trick or Treat”
Trick or treating is when children ring other people’s doorbells looking for candy. When the door is opened the kids say, “Trick or treat.” Usually, the answerer of the door has a bunch of candy to hand out to the children. In my experiences, he/she will ask what you are dressed as. This conversation usually lasts no longer than 30 seconds, because you’re trying to get as much candy as you can before the night ends. It wasn’t always this high spirited, the origin of trick or treating comes from something much more upsetting. Back in time poor children and adults would go door-by-door, begging for food and money. In exchange they would give a song or a prayer to their benefactor. The term, “trick or treat,” comes from youthful tormentors around 1927. If they weren’t given anything edible, you or your property would be tormented in some way.
Connections to AP World
Halloween is very much connected to what we’ve studied in class this year. The Celtics were a part of the classical period which was from 600 BC to 600 AD. The three striking features of classical civilizations are: standardization of culture/religion, development of/push towards empires, and contact with others through trade and communication. The Celtics had all three of these features. They had a territory, north of the Alps. We have established that the Celts were polytheistic, they believed in many gods and were known for witchcraft. And we know that they had contact with others if the Romans and Greeks called them “barbarians.”
In AP World we have studied Christianity, what they believe, and who they are. Their higher power is God, and his son is Jesus who walked the Earth. Christians believe in heaven and hell. Heaven is the place that you’d go if you followed their 10 Commandments. But Hell is where Satan resides, the devil. This is where you’d go if you broke the 10 Commandments and didn’t follow God and his ways. When Christianity spread to Britain, they knew about the evil that lives on October 31. So they decided to make November 1 All Saints’ Day, perhaps to lighten the mood.
Later in time, the Greeks and Romans began to call the Celts barbarians. They were called Keltoi or Galatae by the Greeks and Celtae or Galli by the Romans. These two civilizations, the Greeks and the Romans, faced major threats from the Celtics. They faced a threat because they were so close in proximity to the Greeks. Aristotle, a Greek philosopher, once commented that their courage had an element of passion like that of all barbarians. The Celtics are very much alike to the Mongols, who had no fear and defeated everything in their path.
Children usually go to houses that have their lights on. This is one of the unspoken rules of Halloween, don’t go ring a doorbell if their outside lights are off. This year, my family kept our lights off due to the fact that we weren’t going to be home until 7:30, and trick or treating ends at 8. But we had some little rule breakers roll up to our house around 8:15. Although we still gave them candy, they should know not to ring our doorbell. There are many reasons people leave their lights off. One being that they are religious, and know the origins of Halloween, and that it’s an evil holiday.
What about the adults? Nearly half the adult population dresses up for Halloween. Some companies have their employees dress up, maybe for a friendly costume competition. But most adults dress up to go to parties with friends. Most of the adults’ costumes are funny things like: adult baby, popeye, where’s waldo, and Johnny Bravo. I know that whenever I see an adult in a costume it’s much funnier than those that children wear. Who knew, maybe adults can still have fun.
Children show that they really do not know about Halloween’s demonic origins. Most children will just dress up as their favorite superhero or sport’s player. In no way is that wrong, I just feel that they need to know how it became a national holiday.
Should They Know?
I’m going to leave you with an ending question, should people know about the origins of Halloween? In my opinion, people need to know where it came from to really embrace the meaning. But on the other hand if children came to know then they may become too scared to go and celebrate this holiday. Halloween may be one of the most anticipated holidays for children, but if they knew its roots, there would be an entirely different story.