History of Halloween

Halloween is celebrated on October 31st every year in several countries where people wear strange outfits to drive away ghosts.

It was in the eighteenth century that Pope Gregory III proposed 1st of November to honour all saints. The evening before the All Saints Day was then considered as the All Hallows Eve and later called Halloween. After a period of time, Halloween evolved as an activity which included trick-or-treating, carving jack-o-lanterns, festive gatherings, and eating sweet treats.

Where did it all begin?

Well, the history of Halloween dates back to 2,000 years ago, where the Celts who lived in Ireland, United States and northern France celebrated their New Year’s Eve on the 1st of November every year. This very day marked the end of summer and the beginning of cold, misty winter. The Celt’s associated human death with the winter and strongly believed that it was the night before the new year, the division of the worlds of the living and the dead diminished. The night of October 31st was celebrated as Samhain as the Celts believed that the souls of the dead returned to earth and thought that this staunch belief helped the Celtic priests in predicting their future.

This belief made the Celts built huge sacred bonfires, where all the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes of animal heads and skins and also attempted to predict each other’s fortunes.

Did you know?

“On Halloween, when it was believed that ghosts came back to the earthly world, people thought that they would encounter ghosts if they left their homes. To avoid being recognized by these ghosts, people would wear masks when they left their homes after dark so that the ghosts would mistake them for fellow spirits.”

Halloween in America

The celebration of Halloween was initially restricted in New England because of the unbending protestant beliefs. Slowly and steadily the beliefs and customs loosened and the American version of Halloween emerged later during the period. The American Halloween celebration consisted of play parties and other public events where people shared the stories of the dead, predicted the fortune of one another and danced. The second half of the nineteenth century saw America flooded with immigrants and these immigrants popularised the Halloween custom worldwide.

By the end of 1930, the period of Halloween featured parties and entertainment and later in the year 1950, the day observed as Halloween (October 31st) was declared as a holiday. During Halloween, people placed bowls of food outside their homes prevent them from attempting to enter their houses.

Black Cats as a Halloween Symbol

The period of Halloween comprises of mystery, magic and superstition. People during this season set places in their dining table and lit candles on the roadsides to help their loved ones find their way to the spirit world. Besides these, people believed black cats to be a symbol of bad luck which is continued to be a belief till date. This concept was brought during the Middle Ages by people who believed in ghosts turning into cats.

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