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Where did Halloween come from?

Tiffany Bustamante, Staff

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Straddling the line between fall and winter, life and death, Halloween is a time of celebration and superstition when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to get rid of “roaming ghosts.” Over time, Halloween has evolved into a community-based event characterized by child-friendly activities, such as trick-or-treating, but also hiding much deeper meanings.

          Halloween dates back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who lived 2000 years ago in what is now called Ireland, the United Kingdom, and Northern France, celebrated Halloween on November first.  The Celts believed that on the night before the New Year, the boundaries between the living and the dead blurred. The All Saints Day celebration was also called All-hallows (from middle-English alholownesse meaning all saints day), and the night before it, the traditional night of Samhain in the Celtic religion, began to be called All-hallows Eve and eventually, Halloween.

          The first celebrations included “Play parties”, public events held to celebrate the harvest, where neighbors would share stories, tell each others’ fortunes, dance and sing. By the middle of the 19th century, annual autumn festivities were common, but Halloween was not yet celebrated everywhere in the country. Taking from Irish and English traditions, Americans began to dress up in costumes and go-house to house asking for food or money, a practice that eventually became today’s “trick-or-treat” tradition. At the turn of the century, Halloween parties for both children and adults became the most common way to celebrate the day. Parties focused on games, foods of the season, and festive costumes. By the 1920s and 1930s, Halloween had become a secular, but community-centered holiday, with parades and parties for entertainment. A new American tradition was born and it continues to grow, but because of these efforts Halloween lost its superstition and religious meaning. Many people still celebrate Halloween in different ways. Alyssa Vargas (7th grader) says “for Halloween I go out trick-or-treating with my little brother and sister, and my favorite part is being able dress up like anything you want and not be weird.” Alyssa Ubieta (8th grader) also says that dressing up is also her favorite part and getting candy! Most teenagers don’t go trick-or-treating, instead they go to a party or stay home. But, how many know how this all began?

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Where did Halloween come from?