Halloween Origins & Traditions

Kira Diep, Staff Writer

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It’s finally spooky season students!
Which means the abundance of orange, purple, and black colors around the states. Children and sometimes even adults celebrate the annual holiday celebrated each year on October 31st. But don’t you ever wonder how Halloween came to be?

The Origins of Halloween
Halloween’s origin date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, The Inhabitants, known as Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area now known as Ireland.

That day marked the end of summer’s harvest and the beginning of the upcoming winter.
Celts believed that the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the dead and the living becomes blurred. So on the night of October 31st, they celebrated Samhain when it was believed that the spirits of the dead temporary return to earth.

To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other’s fortunes. Then when the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that evening from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.

Halloween Traditions

An early 20th-century Irish Halloween mask

From at least the 16th century, the festival included mumming in Ireland, Scotland, the Isle of Man and Wales.  This involved people going house-to-house in costume, usually reciting various songs in exchange for food or treats. Long ago they would impersonate these beings or wearing a disguise, was also believed to protect oneself from them. It is suggested that the mummers and guisers “personify the old spirits of the winter, who demanded reward in exchange for good fortune.” And nowadays transferred to modern times, where kids dress up in various costumes and go door to door asking for treats for merely dressing up.
Every year during October, you can see multiple carved pumpkins sitting on porches and doorsteps in many states in time for Halloween. Orange fruits with many textures, shapes, and sizes with all types of carved faces with a candle lighting them up, named jack-o-lanterns.

File:Traditional Irish halloween Jack-o'-lantern.jpg

A traditional Irish Halloween turnip (rutabaga) lantern on display in the Museum of Country Life, Ireland

The name comes from an Irish folktale about a man named Stingy Jack, who had tricked the Devil twice to leave him alone for many years and to never claim his soul when he passed on, when he inevitably passed away, God and the Devil turned him away from heaven and hell so he was set to roam the earth with only a piece of coal and a carved-out turnip.

The Irish referred to Stingy Jack as ”Jack of the Lantern” then, later on, changed to ”Jack O’Lantern” Then the Irish and Scottish made their own versions of Jack’s lanterns with rather turnips and potatoes than pumpkins. When immigrants from these countries brought the jack o’ lantern tradition with them, they found out soon that pumpkins, which is a native fruit to America, make perfect jack o’ lanterns!

That is just a few long-ago Halloween traditions, but have a safe and spooky Halloween reader!