Halloween’s History

UT Staff Writer
Niner Online
Universtiy of North Carolina Charlotte

The story says that Jack has been roaming the Earth since. In Ireland, what we know as jack-o'-lantern is known as "Jack of the Lantern."

Halloween has come a long way. Unlike other Western world holidays, such as Christmas and Easter, Halloween’s origin has been somewhat lost over time. No one really remembers what the holiday was intended to celebrate or honor.

While kids today are running around in Power Ranger and Disney Princesses costumes, they don’t take the time to look past their candy and wonder why they go trick-or-treating every year.

And for most adults, Halloween is nothing more than the holiday that brings Scarowinds and Pumpkin Spice Lattes.

Halloween was started by the Celts, a religious group that lived in what is today known as Ireland, more than 2,000 years ago. The Celts celebrated their new year on Nov. 1, which is also the first day of winter. The Celts called this festival Samhaim, pronounced sow-in.

Unfortunately, the Celts had work to do before celebrating. They believed the gate between the earth and the spirit world opened on the night of Oct. 31. To some Celts, having the spirit world invade earth was harmless and even helpful for local priests to harness psychic abilities and make predictions about the future.

However, other Celts were more precautious. They would build bonfires on the night of Oct. 31 to ward the spirits away. They would also dress as animals and dance around the fire, while also sacrilegiously throwing parts of their crops into the flames.

In the 9th century, the Romans conquered the Celts, and Halloween was quickly replaced by the Christian version.

At that time, All Saints’ Day, celebrated Nov. 1, had been created to honor Christian Saints. The night before Nov. 1 was referred to as All Hallows’ Eve.

At the time, All Hallows’ Eve had no satanic undertones. In celebration, people dressed in costumes and attended parties and bonfires.

In other parts of the world, such as Mexico, natives honored relatives who had passed away in a celebration known as the Day of the Dead. Relatives and children would visit the graves of loved ones and clean their tombstones to make the site look new and loved. Lastly, fresh flowers and small trinkets representing a fond memory or treasure in life would be placed around the grave.

This tradition was done because there was a belief that if not visited by family, ancestors would be lonely and sad.

Following World War II, trick-or-treating started in the United States. The Halloween tradition originated in the British Isles and to this day, remains popular in Scotland, England and Ireland.

Also known as guising because of the disguises worn, children would travel from door to door while performing tricks or songs to receive treats.

Haunted houses are another addition to the “spooktacular” holiday. Originally believed to be haunted by supernatural forces such as ghosts, goblins and the dead, these houses and trails today are designed for this holiday to scare unexpected prey.

Another popular icon of Halloween is the jack-o’-lantern. The story of the jack-o’-lantern also originates from Ireland.

In the story, a stingy Irish man named Jack strikes a deal with the devil himself for a drink. The devil eventually turns himself into a silver coin to pay for the drinks, which Jack pockets. To change back into his original form, the devil agrees to not claim Jack’s soul.

After Jack dies, he seeks refuge in Heaven but is refused entrance because of his dealings with the devil. He’s also not allowed into Hell because of his deal with the devil. The devil sends Jack back to earth with only a burning coal to light his way.

The story says that Jack has been roaming the Earth since. In Ireland, what we know as jack-o’-lantern is known as “Jack of the Lantern.”