The time has come once again where streets are flooded with Disney princesses, superheroes, and old shaped beings that make the average adult feel out of touch with modern movies and characters. Candy will be handed out by the bucketloads, and people flock to parties for a night of fun and mischief under assumed identities. It is none other than Halloween week!
Halloween is one of those holidays that people love to go full force into, yet many have no idea of the history that lays behind the trick-or-treating and costumes. For those in tune with the Celtic heritage however, they may have a special appreciation for the facts behind the celebration, as the holiday can be traced back all the way to the Celtic festival of Samhain.
Thousands of years ago the Celts celebrated the new year and the harvest jointly in a festival spanning from October 31st to November 1st, which was the official start of the Celtic new year. As they welcomed the new year, the Celts believed that ghosts and spirits would roam the earth on the 31st, causing havoc, destroying crops and stirring up trouble. In an attempt to scare off the demons and in celebration of the new year, the Celts would wear costumes, light bonfires and act as fortune tellers to their neighbors.
With the overtake of the Celts by the Roman Empire, the holiday began shifting to incorporate those beliefs, and eventual transformation of the Samhain from a pagan holiday to a church-sponsored one with All Hallows Eve and All Souls Day. Centuries later, the more modern Halloween we have come to known traveled across the Atlantic with the Irish immigrants who came to America in the 1800s.
When bringing over the holiday celebrations, many other traditions we have come to associate with Halloween followed. The pumpkin is reminiscent of the vegetables that were among the things that were sacrificed over the bonfire, and the act of trick-or-treating became a popular pastime in Ireland in medieval times as youth would go from door to door performing tricks or acts in exchange for treats or alternatively offering prayers in order to collect food from wealthy homeowners.
Halloween is yet another example of how Irish ancestors have had a huge impact on the traditions and culture of America. Without bringing over the beloved event, children all over the USA would miss out on the sugar rush and the chance to pretend to be someone else for the night- a tradition that children and adults have grown to love just the same!
Will you be celebrating Halloween this weekend?