A Halloween History

By William Hayden Dietz

How to Carve a Pumpkin for Halloween - Pumpkin Carving Tips and Instructions
Cute Pumpkin! Image from: https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/holidays/halloween-ideas/a22196/pumpkin-carving-tips/

In early American history, Halloween was not celebrated to the extent that it is now. 

Halloween originally stemmed from many cultures and religious traditions, such as the Celtic culture, Paganism and Christianity, and was originally two holidays: Hallows Eve and All Saints Day. 

In the past, Halloween was not as associated with horror or fear as it is now, rather communion with the dead, although the beginning of the winter and the ending of harvests could be scary for pre-industrial people.

It is the Gaelic influence from mass Scottish and Irish immigration in the 19th Century to the United States that Halloween was celebrated by wider American culture, and it from these cultures that wearing scary masks and dressing up is thought to be from.

The Halloween that we celebrate today in the United States is likely a combination of several religious traditions, but it is thought that Scottish and Irish immigrants were among the first to bring Halloween to America.

The Gaelic holiday Samhain, a winter solstice like celebration which recognizes the beginning of the cold half of the year, played an influential role in the creation of Halloween; however, 

some scholars disagree, and believe that Halloween is entirely a Christian holiday, with Halloween being the vigil of all Hallows day.

The Pagan aspect of Halloween, Samhain, is seen as the beginning of the “Darker half of the year.”

During this time, the boundary between this world and the spiritual world was supposed to thin, which seems to be familiar to the ghost and horror based Halloween we celebrate in the modern day.

Offerings for the dead were given, and it was expected that spirits of ancestors would return to people’s homes and visit them.

In Christian theology, there are three days of Halloween, the day we celebrate is just the first day.

Nov. 1 and Nov. 3, known as “All Souls Day” were days where major feasts and celebrations were held. 

Together, these three days are known as Allhallowtide and are a time for honoring souls which have departed for heaven, the days are also used to celebrate Saints and Martyrs in Christianity.

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