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History of Halloween

Kids or adults, everyone just loves to celebrate and be a part of the yearly Halloween festival. It seems none of us can ever get enough of this fantastic October festival dealing with the supernatural and other-worldly elements. But how much are you aware about the history of Halloween? Do you know how this wonderful occassion got its roots? If you do not, read on to familiarize yourself with the interesting beginning and evolution of Halloween. To share this fascinating article on the history of Halloween, click here and pass it on to whoever you want. Happy Halloween!
The origin of the Halloween festival has always been a subject of great conversation. Numerous research and analysis by scholars and historians have established the ancient Celtic festival "Samhain" as the predecessor of the modern Halloween celebrations.

More than 2,000 years ago, vast areas in Europe including Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France was inhabited by the Celts who celebrated November 1 as the first day of their new year. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest season and was also seen as the beginning of the winter season, widely seen in primitive times as a time of death and decay owing to natural phenomena like drying up and falling of leaves, withering of trees, death and disappearance of green vegetation.

The Celts believed that on October 31, the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead obliterated and the spirits of the dead returned to the earth to cause problems to living beings and damage their crops. But the presence of these supernatural beings was supposed to assist the Druids, or Celtic priests, in making their predictions about the future. The Celtic people had great faith in these prophecies, which lifted their spirits during the long, dark winter. Hence, they observed this event with huge sacred bonfires, offering crops and bones of slaughtered livestock into the flames as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. This was also a time when every family paid respects to its departed ancestors and welcomed them while warding off harmful spirits wearing spooky costumes and masks. They believed that disguising themselves thus would make them seem like ghosts and keep themselves away from dangerous spirits. Such practices were also prevalent in Scotland, where two bonfires were lit side-by-side, and people and their livestock would walk between them as a cleansing ritual.

With the Roman aggression and takeover of most of the vast Celtic territory around 50 A.D., many of the traditions of the former got mixed with Celtic customs. To this day, many similarities can be found between the Celtic "Samhain" and "Feralia", a late October-festival of the Romans that traditionally commemorated the passing of the dead. A notable instance of Roman influence can be noted in the tradition of "bobbing" for apples in modern Halloween celebrations, which owes its origin perhaps to a similar Roman custom observed during the worship of Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees, whose symbol was the apple.

With the introduction of Christianity into Celtic lands, the Celtic "Samhain" festival found its way to the heart of the Christians.

In the 7th century, Pope Boniface IV formed "All Saints' Day", a festival that was founded on similar lines as "Samhain" but was intended to replace the pagan festival of the dead. Initially observed on May 13, its date of observance was later shifted to November 1 by Pope Gregory III. All Saints' Day was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints' Day) and the night before it, the night of Samhain, began to be called All-hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween.

When European immigrants came to America, their traditions came along. In the late 1800s, when more and more people of European origin began to come and settle in America, the popularity of Halloween grew rapidly. Inspired and attracted by the Irish and English customs, many Americans also began to dress up in amusingly scary costumes and visit every house asking for food or money, a practice that eventually became the present "trick-or-treat" tradition. Young women believed that, on Halloween, they could perceive the name or appearance of their future husband by doing tricks with yarn, apple parings, or mirrors. Soon there arose a demand to make Halloween a national holiday that was to be especially a time for get-togethers and fun, and less an event concerning ghosts, pranks, and witchcraft.

In the twentieth century, Halloween became a fun celebration involving parties, games, dressing up in costumes, feasts and get-togethers and including kids as well as adults. All things scary or frightening begun to be kept out of the occassion. Soon it began to be less and less of a religious occassion and more a holiday where having merriment was to be the main intention.

By the 1920s and 1930s, Halloween had become a secular, but community-centered holiday, with parades and parties forming the crux of the entertainment. Many of the old traditions were revived by the '50s but the occassion had by then lost its old Celtic flavour and was on its way to becoming the American "Halloween" as we know it today.

Today, Halloween is the second largest commercial holiday in the U.S. Annually, Americans spend an estimated $6.9 billion on the occassion.

While many Christians have embraced Halloween, some of them view it as a celebration of imaginary evil beings and demonic things and regard it as entirely incompatible with the Christian faith. To this day, many Christians refrain from celebrating Halloween.

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