Halloween's Haunted History


Why not have your kids digest some Halloween history along with their Halloween candies and treats. If you aren't exactly caught up on why pumpkins became jack-o-lanterns or how the holiday became known as Halloween, read on for some fun facts to share with the whole family.

Every year, millions of children (and adults) across the country catch the Halloween spirit. This haunted holiday conjures both scary stories and spine-tingling traditions. But what are the origins of Halloween? Is it really a ghoulish gala for ghosts and goblins? Or just a harmless celebration of fall festivals and autumn harvests?

History of Halloween

• Haunted holiday beginnings. The holiday of Halloween actually dates back to Celtic celebrations in the 5th Century BC. The Celts officially celebrated their new year on November 1st, a time that marked the end of summer harvest and the beginning of winter. On the night of October 31st, the Celts celebrated Samhain (pronounced sow-in), a day when they believed the spirit world returned to mix with the living.

• Celtic celebrations to holy holidays. In the 800s the influence of Christianity spread to the Celtic region. Pope Boniface IV named November 1st "All Saints' Day" or "All Hallows Day." The day before this holy holiday, called "All Hallows Eve," eventually became know as Halloween. Pope Boniface also declared November 2nd "All Souls' Day," a time for honoring the dead. Together, these three celebrations-"All Hallows Eve," "All Hallows Day," and "All Souls' Day"-were known as the Hallowmas.

• Saving souls to savoring sweets. The tradition of trick-or-treating dates back to the early "All Souls' Day" parades in England during which poor citizens would beg for food and families would give them pastries called "soul cakes" in return for their promise to pray for the family's
dead relatives.

• Harvests and hayrides. The custom of Halloween was brought to America in the 1840s by Irish immigrants fleeing Ireland during the country's potato famine. Originally, Halloween was celebrated in the United States as an autumn harvest festival with corn-popping parties, taffy pulls, and hayrides. A rutabaga lantern? An Irish tradition, the first Jack-O-Lanterns were hollowed, oversized rutabagas, turnips and potatoes whose carved-out faces were illuminated with candles to be used as lanterns during Halloween celebrations. When Irish immigrants came to America, they found that pumpkins were far more plentiful than turnips. So the Jack-O-Lantern in America was a  hollowed-out pumpkin, lit with an ember.

• A friendly fall celebration. Although Halloween has been characterized as a devilish day for ghosts and goblins, the holiday itself did not grow out of evil practices. Today, it represents a wonderful opportunity for kids and adults to celebrate new creativity, old customs, and their favorite Halloween candy!

Article courtesy of the National Confectioners Association.


See Also:

Freaky, Fun Facts about Halloween Candy

Tips for a Happy and Safe Halloween