How did Halloween begin and how do students feel about the ritual these days? This two-part story delves into the origins of All Hallow’s Eve, and then inquires about whether this is a dark holiday or fun tradition.
This is the origin story of Halloween, where we got our traditions from and how the holiday evolved over the years.
Pumpkin carving, costumes, haunted houses and free candy are many of the traditions of Halloween and one of the many reasons people love fall.
Halloween is a great tradition, but not many people know the origin of this holiday.
According to history.com, it all started about 2,000 years ago during the Celtic festival Samhain (pronounced Sow-in) which means summer’s end.
The Celtics celebrated their New Year on Nov. 1 and would celebrate the night before on Oct. 31.
This holiday celebrated the end of harvest and the beginning of winter, which they associated with death.
It was believed that on Oct. 31 the boundary between the dead and the living was weaker and that the dead could return as ghosts.
With this veil being so weak, the Celts believed they could more easily tell each other’s fortunes.
To do this, they would gather in costumes, usually as animal heads and skins, around a big bonfire and offer their crops and animals as sacrifices to their gods.
This was considered a pagan ritual because they were performed by a witch doctor or a pagan priest to change the person in order to communicate with the spirits of the dead.
However, this celebration evolved over time by merging with other holidays and their traditions, eventually becoming Halloween.
“In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated Nov. 1 as a time to honor all saints and martyrs; the holiday, All Saints’ Day, incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows’ Eve and later Halloween,” said History.com.
All Saints day was celebrated with parades, bonfires and people would dress up as angels, devils and saints, which is most likely where we got our current tradition of dressing up in costumes every year.
Trick-or-treating began when Irish immigrants flooded into America in 1846 due to the potato famine and with them they brought the tradition of dressing up in costumes and going to others’ houses asking for food or money.
The Celts also feared encountering ghosts so they would wear masks to trick them and placed bowls of food outside their doors to distract the ghosts so they would not enter their home.
With the protestant beliefs in the majority, the holiday originally didn’t carry over into the colonies.
“Celebration of Halloween was extremely limited in colonial New England because of the rigid Protestant belief systems there. Halloween was much more common in Maryland and the southern colonies,” said History.com.
However, with all the different celebrations of the vast ethnic groups in America, a new version of Halloween arose.
This new version of Halloween was celebrated with parties, ghost stories, fortune telling, dancing and singing.
Today people buy candy to pass out to the children and “spend an estimated $6 billion on Halloween, making it the country’s second largest commercial holiday,” according to history.com.
The tradition of carving pumpkins for Halloween is rooted in the fact that witches would put candles inside of skulls to illuminate the path on the way to their coven meeting.
The other more popular tale of how the tradition came about is from the legend of Irish Jack.
The legend says that a drunk named Jack was able to trick the devil into a tree and then carve a cross into it which prevented the devil from coming down; Jack used this advantage to force the devil into agreeing to never have hold over his soul.
When Jack did die, he was not allowed to enter Heaven due to do his poor lifestyle and the devil also turned him away to keep his promise.
“Since Jack had no place to go, he was condemned to wander the earth. As he was leaving hell (he happened to be eating a turnip), the devil threw a live coal at him. He put the coal inside the turnip and has since forever been roaming the earth with his “jack-o’-lantern” in search of a place to rest,” says Cbn.com.
The turnip eventually was replaced with a pumpkin so it could more easily be symbolized and that’s why we carve pumpkins today.
This history helps us to understand our traditions today in celebrating this fun-loving holiday: This. Is. Halloween.
Halloween is viewed in many different ways by many different people, but what do MBU students think about this annual ritual?
Dressing up as your favorite superhero, princess, athlete or any other character for Halloween when you were a kid was probably one of the most exciting days of the year.
You got to be whoever you wanted to be and enter into a world of fantasy for an entire night, plus get a bag full of free candy … every child’s dream come true.
However, many families grew up with different views on Halloween and restricted their kids from partaking in the holiday, the houses with the lights off.
Today, there are many different views on the holiday, but it is typically viewed more lightly and seen as a fun tradition.
“I always celebrated Halloween. It’s probably my favorite holiday. Any day is a day to celebrate,” said Katie Seffens, a senior broadcast media major at Missouri Baptist University, “and if there’s one day out of the year people give me free candy and I can make hundreds of little kids happy while they tell me corny jokes, you better believe I am all about that.”
Some kids will grow up celebrating it for their entire childhood without ever even knowing there was or could be a darker side to this fall festivity.
“My family celebrated Halloween from the time I was a little baby. My parents would dress me up before I was even old enough to understand the holiday,” said Chasney Seibert, a junior psychology major at MBU.
Though many view this holiday as harmless, others consider it to be a satanic holiday due to its roots in pagan celebrations.
“My family believed it was celebrating evil so we ate candy at home and did family stuff together,” said Abby Crain, a junior English major at MBU. “We did call it the devil’s holiday at times, but we didn’t assume everyone worshiped Satan if they decided to trick-or-treat.”
Some kids were not allowed to partake in the event until they were old enough to understand the meaning behind Halloween, like Esther Gilliam, a senior communication studies major at MBU.
“I did not celebrate Halloween until I was 15 because my parents believed it to be the ‘devil’s holiday.’ It was strange to start that late in my life because that is when everyone else was starting to be more independent and decided it was not fun anymore,” Gilliam said. “I find that the restrictions I had growing up helped me to find the child in me.”
As we grow older, our perception of Halloween can change from a darker outlook to a lighter one.
“I never cared much for Halloween, but now I think it can be a fun way for friends and family to hang out,” said Lydia Milan, a senior communication studies major at MBU. “It is fun getting dressed up and being someone else. My favorite part of Halloween would be finding the perfect costume and makeup design to go with it.”
While some perceptions change to a lighter view of the holiday, others can change to a slightly darker look on it, like how it was for Seibert.
“As a child I always viewed it as a fun time to dress up and get a lot of candy. Now, after seeing a lot of scary movies and more of the dark side of Halloween, I find it to be a bit more creepy of a holiday, but still fun,” said Seibert.
Though many grew up knowing the meaning of Halloween, it still seems more widely accepted as a fun night of tradition for everyone, with maybe a slight hand of caution toward the holiday.
So, if you celebrate Halloween, have fun and be safe, but make sure you know exactly what you’re celebrating.