Fact Check: Why do we celebrate Halloween?

So where did Halloween come from?

Your house is decked out in spider webs, the grim reaper is standing on your front lawn holding a bowl of candy and your mom just turned into a witch… it must be Halloween again. If you haven’t noticed, retail stores across the country have started stocking plastic body parts, creepy masks and costumes galore.

What made the holiday so commercial and profitable? Simple, the people who celebrate it. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF) it is estimated that seven in 10 Americans will celebrate Halloween this year. Or in other words: seven in 10 Americans will spend an estimated 80 dollars each on bags of candy, decorations and costumes, all of which totals up to about eight billion dollars.

Halloween wasn’t always an expensive holiday focused on tricks and treats. It is said to have originated from the festival of Samhain celebrated by the ancient Celts. Their new year’s day was on Nov. 1 and Samhain marked the beginning of a long cold winter and was strongly connected with human death. The Celts believed that during the night before the new year, the boundary between the world of the living and the dead was marred, thus allowing ghosts to roam the Earth. They believed the presence of these ghosts would allow their priests, the Druids, to make more accurate predictions about the future. So on the eve of Samhain, the Druids lit a large bonfire and the Celts threw in their crops and animals as sacrifice to their deities. They would wear costumes (mainly animal heads or skin) and tell each other’s fortunes.

Around 1000 B.C.E. the Roman Catholic Church made Nov. 2 “All Souls Day” to honor the dead; it was also referred to as “All Hallows Day.” This made the night before referred to as “Hallows Eve” which later evolved into the modern word “Halloween.”

The holiday was brought to America, but was not widely celebrated due to the strict belief in Protestantism. As it mixed with the Native American culture and the culture of the new immigrants flooding into the country, the customs gradually evolved into the modern holiday that we know and love.

So when you’re out trick-or-treating, sitting at home watching scary movies or going to a costume party with your friends tonight, remember that you’re doing so because of what the ancient Celts believed.

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About Dominique Hlavac

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