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The History of Halloween

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The History of Halloween

Trick or treat! Halloween is just around the corner. In the spirit of the season, let’s dive deep into the history of Halloween and its many traditions. For starters, how did Halloween become a holiday in the first place and what events inspired trick or treating?

CELTIC ROOTS

Halloween wasn’t always a holiday on its own. In fact, looking back at history, it originated from an ancient Celtic festival known as “Samhain”. Samhain was traditionally celebrated by lighting bonfires and wearing costumes to ward off spirits. Celebrations took place around the fire and included sacrifices to Celtic deities along with costumes made from animal skin. During the celebration, it was custom to attempt to predict one’s future after the sacrificial portion of the ceremony. By the eighth century, Pope Gregory III had declared November 1st as a celebration of all saints. It became known as All Saints Day, marking the end of summer and the harvest season with cold, dark winters following. These harsh winters were often associated with death and despair. It was believed that the evening before All Saints Day was the only time that the spirit realm could transcend into the living realm, allowing ghosts to return to earth. This day was dubbed “All Hallows Eve.”

ROMAN INSPIRATION

Ancient Roman culture was similar to the Celtics’ Samhain, which occurred in late October and commemorated the passing of the dead, known as Feralia. The second day’s purpose was to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. In fact, the symbol of Pomona is the apple and is believed to explain why we often celebrate Halloween by bobbing for apples.  

AMERICAN TWIST

By Colonial times, Halloween had made its way to America…mostly. Not all Protestant colonies were partaking at first, but southern colonies and others, such as Maryland, were making it a tradition. European and Native American cultures began colliding to create the Halloween we know and love today. The events were similar, in that they publicly celebrated the harvest with what was known as “play parties.” The traditional play parties included sharing stories of the dead, fortune-telling, singing, and dancing. By the mid-19th century, the Irish Potato Famine brought many emigrants of European descent that helped to popularize the tradition in American culture.

Back in Ireland, the legend of Stingy Jack was deeply rooted. During this time, it was believed that a man, named Jack, tricked the devil for monetary gain and once he perished, he was neither allowed to enter Heaven or Hell. Instead, his soul was believed to wander the earth. The Irish custom emerged of carving turnips with frightening faces to ward off Stingy Jack. When these European emigrants came to America, they began using pumpkins, as this was a plentiful, native harvest at the time rather than turnips.

FUN FACT: The pumpkin is a fruit, not a vegetable, from a botanical perspective. This is because it is seed-bearing and is a product of flowering plants. Vegetables are often consumed as roots, stems, leaves, tubers, or other parts of the plant. However, based on its savory taste and texture, it is often categorized as a vegetable.

In the late 1800s, the concept of trick or treating began to emerge as Americans would dress up and go door-to-door asking their neighbors for food or money. This was also a time when young women believed they could perform tricks with yarn, mirrors, or apple paring to impress and manifest their future husbands. Eventually, the holiday grew into an event that adults and children could participate in with the intent of fostering a better sense of community.

Speaking of scary stuff, this year’s biggest frights may include complex scientific concepts and technology in education. Let us help you with those academic skeletons in your closet. Talk to one of our staff members today about adding our afterschool STEAM Club. Our program targets 21st-century concepts and transforms them into less scary, digestible information through inquiry-based learning and performing various hands-on experiments!

Add our STEM Inventor Club at your school today to create and build even more advanced inventions. This afterschool program familiarizes students with the invention process and uses real-world technology to spark imagination, support creativity, and foster critical thinking skills among its members.

 Still have a fear of studying and homework? Try tutoring. Our grade ghostbusters (aka tutors) are on the prowl to gather up all the ghoulish grades and make them into academically sound spirits that you don’t mind following you around!

Want MORE Futurelink fun? Download and print these free coloring activities for your creative little monsters this Halloween:

FREE Halloween Coloring Page 1

FREE Halloween Coloring Page 2

Have a spooky, safe, and most of all HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

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