Origins of Halloween

Abstract

I’m conducting research on the origins of Halloween. I chose this subject because I have always loved Halloween and it has a very interesting history. I plan to research the history and different meanings of Halloween throughout time. I will be looking at how Halloween got its start, how it has changed over the years, and how it got to where it is today. I will also be looking into how the idea of jack o lanterns and the famous pass time of trick or treating got started. There is a lot more to Halloween than just dressing up and getting free candy from strangers. Many don’t realize that Halloween wasn’t always about the candy or the costume, at one time it was about something completely different.

Introduction

Many of us know and love Halloween today, but most do not know of its true origin. It wasn’t always about dressing up and going door to door throughout the neighborhood to get free candy. What we know as Halloween originally began as part of a Celtic festival known as “Samhain”. Samhain was celebrated on the 31st of October each year to mark the end of summer. The festival consisted of lighting bonfires and wearing costumes to ward of ghostly spirits. In the beginning, October 31st was referred to as “all hallows eve”. Over time, they started calling it Halloween and the traditions have grown and changed into wearing costumes, lighting jack o lanterns, trick or treating, and much more.

The Celts lived over 2000 years ago in what is now Ireland and France and they celebrated their new year on the 1st of every November. For the Celts, this day marked the end of summer and harvest and the beginning of winter, which was largely associated with human death. Celtic folklore claims that the veil between life and death is thinnest on October 31st and the dead can walk freely among the living. The Celts believed that the presence of spirits could cause irreparable damage to crops but could also provide insight about the future. During the Samhain celebration, they would light bonfires and wear costumes, which typically consisted of animal heads and skins, and they would attempt to tell each other’s futures. When Samhain was over, they used the fire from the bonfire to light the fireplaces in their homes because they believed it would keep them safe during the winter. These types of traditions may seem silly to most of us today, but they were very important to the Celts.

The Celts were eventually conquered by the Romans who ruled their land for several hundred years. Over this course of time, the Romans combined two of their own festivals with Samhain. The first festival was called “Feralia” and was meant to celebrate the dead in late October. The other festival was meant to honor “Pomona”, the Roman goddess of the fruit and trees. Pomona’s symbol is an apple and that’s most likely where we get the activity of bobbing for apples from.

Christianity spread vastly among the Celtic lands during the 9th century and it slowly replaced many of the older Celtic ways. The Christians celebrated something they liked to call “all soul’s day” which was very similar to Samhain. Bonfires were lit, there were parades, costumes, and many other fun activities. The costumes consisted of angels, devils, and of course saints. All soul’s day was also referred to as “All-Hallows” or “All-Hallowmas” and the night before was called “All-Hallows-Eve”. All-Hallows-Eve eventually became known as “Halloween”.

When Halloween first came to America it was mainly common in Maryland and the southern colonies of colonial New England because of the Protestant belief system. Beliefs and customs from different cultures began to mesh together and the American version of Halloween was born. The first celebrations were called “play parties” and they consisted of telling ghost stories, fortune telling, singing, and dancing. By about the middle of the 19th century, there were annual autumn festivals, but Halloween was still not celebrated everywhere. Thanks to the Irish potato famine, new immigrants arrived in America during the second half of the 19th century and Halloween became a popular and nationally celebrated holiday.

American’s began to adopt Irish and American traditions and participated in what is now known as “trick or treating”. They would dress up in costumes and go house to house asking for money or food. In the late 1800s, American’s decided to mold Halloween into a holiday more about community and neighborly gatherings, rather than about pranks, ghosts, and witchcraft. Parents were encouraged to remove anything frightening from their Halloween celebrations and Halloween lost most of its superstitious and religious overtones by about the 20th century.

Literature Review

HISTORY. (2018). Halloween 2018. [online] Available at: https://www.history.com/topics/halloween/history-of-halloween This discusses where Halloween originated and how it has changed through the years. It is important because it provides the background data needed for this study.

Miller, K. A., & And Others. (1993). Dressing in Costume and the Use of Alcohol, Marijuana, and Other Drugs by College Students. Adolescence, 28(109), 189–98. Retrieved from https://login.proxy.tamuc.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ459044&site=ehost-live This discusses the social aspect of Halloween and how college students often dress in costume and have parties consisting of alcohol and drugs. It is important because it conveys how Halloween has become more of a party today than it was in the past.

Kawash, S. (2011). Gangsters, Pranksters, and the Invention of Trick-or-Treating, 1930-1960. American Journal of Play, 4(2), 150–175. Retrieved from https://login.proxy.tamuc.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ985578&site=ehost-live This discusses how trick or treating came to be. It is important because trick or treating is a very big part of Halloween. The tradition of trick or treating has grown over the years and this article discusses some of the aspects that have changed.

Cardellichio, T. (1992). Putting an End to Halloween Horrors: An Approach That Worked. NASSP Bulletin, 76(545), 110–13. Retrieved from https://login.proxy.tamuc.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ449868&site=ehost-live This discusses how Halloween has become about an excuse to pull pranks and commit acts of violence for delinquents.

Bell, M. E., & Rhode Island Heritage Commission, P. (1994). Rattling Chains and Dreadful Noises: Customs and Arts of Halloween. Third Edition. Retrieved from https://login.proxy.tamuc.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=ED402223&site=ehost-live

This discusses some of the customs of Halloween and how they have been derived from both pagan and Christian beliefs. It is important because it discusses the meanings behind Halloween and how it has changed historically.

Akin, T. (1991). Exploring the Origins of Halloween (In the Classroom). Reading Teacher, 45(2), 164–66. Retrieved from https://login.proxy.tamuc.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ432503&site=ehost-live This discusses activities that teachers can use to teach students about the origins of Halloween.

Hoge, J. D. (1988). Valuable Social Learning from Halloween Fun. Social Education, 52(6), 458–59. Retrieved from https://login.proxy.tamuc.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ379333&site=ehost-live

This discusses fun activities that can be used to teach about Halloween. It is important because it talks about the customs, rituals, and some of the myths associated with Halloween.

A Bag of Halloween Treats. (1984). Instructor, 94(3), 114–17. Retrieved from https://login.proxy.tamuc.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ304939&site=ehost-live This discusses different, plays, rhymes, and stories about Halloween.

Methods

The above listed sources were used to discuss the origins of Halloween and how it has changed through time. Each source was analyzed to determine important information that would help to explain the true nature of Halloween. Costumes, jack o lanterns, trick or treating, and bobbing for apples were used as the variables. Each variable was searched to see how specifically it has changed over time. The databases at the universities library were used to search for journal articles containing information related to Halloween. The data collected from each source has shown where Halloween began, where it has gone, and what has changed throughout history. This method was chosen because it is the easiest way to research the topic.

Expected Results

Most people already know what Halloween is and when it is celebrated. However, most do not fully understand the true meaning of Halloween or where it originated. Some religious groups even think that Halloween is evil and should not be celebrated. Children think that Halloween is just a way for them to get free candy. They aren’t wrong completely, considering that is what happens every October. Halloween has a lot more to offer than just costumes and free candy.

This research project is meant to teach about all the aspects of Halloween, from where it came from to how it has become what it is today. I expect to learn about the customs and rituals that are associated with Halloween. Hopefully this research will help the community to understand the true nature of Halloween and give it the celebration it deserves. Halloween doesn’t get the attention or celebration that it truly deserves because so many are afraid of it. They are afraid because of what they think they know about it. Hopefully some of the fear associated with Halloween will be alleviated through the information provided in this project.

Discussion

This research is on the origins of Halloween. It is important to learn the meaning of Halloween so that it can be properly celebrated. I have always had a love for Halloween and I feel that it doesn’t get the credit that it deserves. Halloween has a unique and interesting history and it wasn’t always about what it is today. The holiday has grown and changed in several ways throughout time. What once started as a Celtic festival called “Samhain”, has now become a worldwide holiday called “Halloween”.

I believe that this research will teach about the true meaning of Halloween to those that do not already understand it. It may have some weaknesses because it can be hard to study the history of an ancient holiday. Some of the information may not be available. Also, there may be some critics that don’t believe that Halloween should be researched. Some believe that Halloween is an evil holiday and it is about worshipping the devil. Halloween was never about the devil, that is just somehow what some have turned it into.

References

  1. Akin, T. (1991). Exploring the Origins of Halloween (In the Classroom). Reading Teacher, 45(2), 164–66. Retrieved from https://login.proxy.tamuc.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ432503&site=ehost-live
  2. A Bag of Halloween Treats. (1984). Instructor, 94(3), 114–17. Retrieved from https://login.proxy.tamuc.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ304939&site=ehost-live
  3. Bell, M. E., & Rhode Island Heritage Commission, P. (1994). Rattling Chains and Dreadful Noises: Customs and Arts of Halloween. Third Edition. Retrieved from https://login.proxy.tamuc.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=ED402223&site=ehost-live
  4. Cardellichio, T. (1992). Putting an End to Halloween Horrors: An Approach That Worked. NASSP Bulletin, 76(545), 110–13. Retrieved from https://login.proxy.tamuc.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ449868&site=ehost-live
  5. Hoge, J. D. (1988). Valuable Social Learning from Halloween Fun. Social Education, 52(6), 458–59. Retrieved from https://login.proxy.tamuc.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ379333&site=ehost-live
  6. HISTORY. (2018). Halloween 2018. [online] Available at: https://www.history.com/topics/halloween/history-of-halloween
  7. Kawash, S. (2011). Gangsters, Pranksters, and the Invention of Trick-or-Treating, 1930-1960. American Journal of Play, 4(2), 150–175. Retrieved from https://login.proxy.tamuc.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ985578&site=ehost-live
  8. Miller, K. A., & And Others. (1993). Dressing in Costume and the Use of Alcohol, Marijuana, and Other Drugs by College Students. Adolescence, 28(109), 189–98. Retrieved from https://login.proxy.tamuc.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ459044&site=ehost-live
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