A History of Halloween: How it Came to Be

Whether you think of it as the spookiest day of the year, or as a day full of candy and sweet indulgences, there’s no denying that Halloween is a day that millions have come to know and love for various different reasons. But why today? Where does Halloween even come from? With stories of ghosts and goblins, of creatures rising from the dead, and so much more, today we are going to be diving into the day of the dead.

Dating back 2000 years ago, Halloween actually was derived from an ancient Celtic festival called Samhain in Ireland. As November 1st was the Celtics “New Year,” October 31st therefore marked the end of the summer harvest, and the start of a treacherous Winter, which at this time meant an increase in death. So, on October 31st, Samhain was celebrated as a day that the ghosts of ancestors past returned to them. This celebration usually included enormous sacrificial bonfires, costumes made from animal skins, and predictions of the future.

In terms of the American Halloween that we all know so well, that originated in the North East as a celebration of the Harvest, where communities would share stories of the dead, and tell each other’s fortunes. In the 1800s, Halloween became more of a community holiday, and the turn of the century marked the beginning of Halloween parties and Trick-or-Treating.

Probably the most beloved Halloween tradition, dates back to All Souls’ Day in England. During this celebration, the poor would beg for food, and those generous enough would provide them with pastries called soul cakes in return for their promise to pray for their dead relatives. This practice was eventually picked up by children, who would visit houses door to door and be provided with ale, food and money.

In regards to classic Halloween superstition, magic and mystery, our fear of black cats actually dates back to the Middle Ages, when it was believed that witches had the ability to escape detection by transforming themselves into these slinky black creatures. And our avoidance of ladders? That most likely stems from ancient Egyptians, who believed that triangles were sacred, and should be considered with respect.

So, whether you call it Dia De Los Muertos, Guy Fawkes Day, or the good ol’ Halloween, eco18 wishes you a day of fun, excitement and safety! And don’t forget—keep a look out for any black cats!

Lieve Falck-Pedersen