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The Fall of Halloween Tradition

All Hallow’s Eve history traces back thousands of years

Begging for sweet treats, scaring your friends, haunted houses, elaborate costumes. Today, this is what the average person would think of in regard to Oct. 31; however, there is so much more to this fascinating holiday. Halloween can be traced back 2,000 years, but it wasn’t quite like the one we celebrate today. In what is now known as Ireland, there once lived ancient Celts. The Celts deemed it necessary to mark the midpoint between the Fall Equinox and the Winter Solstice; they called this time Samhain. During this period, people would gather their harvest, and once finished, would celebrate with elaborate bonfires filled with prayer and festivities. This was a sacred time for the Celts, as they believed that during Samhain the barrier between the living world and the dead could be temporarily broken, and their ancestors could visit them. They would often dress in “costumes,” such as animals and monsters, to protect themselves from the visiting souls. Samhain also signaled the beginning of winter, which, for the Celts, was usually associated with disease and death. The tradition began to spread in the eighth century when Pope Gregory III dedicated Nov. 1 to honor the Christian Saints, known as All Saints Day. This day included several festivities, very similar to the celebration of Samhain. Over time, the night before All Saints Day was deemed, All Hallows Eve, today known as Halloween. But who decided to carve pumpkins and encourage parents to send their children door to door begging for candy? The tradition of carving Jack-O-Lanterns began in Ireland with an old tale of the man “Stingy Jack.” Jack captured the Devil and refused to let him go unless he was promised his soul would not go to Hell after his death. Once Jack died, he found that his soul was not wanted in Heaven or Hell, stranded on Earth forever as a spirit. According to the legend, Jack was only given a gutted turnip and a fiery pile of coal. People began gutting and carving turnips, giving them scary faces to protect themselves from the evil spirits such as Stingy Jack. Now, the true start to trick-or-treating is highly debatable. Some say local people would go door-to-door, collecting items such as money and food in exchange for prayer on All Hallows Eve. Others believe that the ancient Celts would leave offerings out for their visiting ancestors, and over time that process evolved into sharing these offerings with each other, while dressed in costume to protect themselves. Today, we are all very familiar with the tradition of trick-or-treating, filled with costumes and sweet treats. Over time, Halloween has become modernized. The holiday is much less focused on superstitions, religion and offerings, but more directed towards stuffing your face with candy, spooking your friends and having an excuse to transform into whatever or whoever your heart may desire. The next time you participate in your favorite festive activities, think about just what may have started that spooky tradition. Oh, and beware of Stingy Jack.

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About the Contributor
Lauren West
Lauren West, Entertainment Editor
I am a senior and this is my third year on staff. I play lacrosse and run cross country, and love spending time with family and friends! Last year I enjoyed my time as a features editor, but I can't wait to begin my new job as an entertainment editor!