Halloween is an annual holiday celebrated each year on October 31, and Halloween 2019 occurs on Thursday, October 31. It originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts. Now Halloween evolved into a day of activities like trick-or-treating, carving jack-o-lanterns, festive gatherings, donning costumes and eating sweet treats.
Did you know? One-quarter of all the candy sold annually in the U.S. is purchased for Halloween.
Ancient Origins of Halloween
Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. The celts would celebrate their new year on November 1st. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. On the night of October 31, they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth.
History of Trick-or-Treating
Borrowing from European traditions, Americans began to dress up in costumes and go house to house asking for food or money, a practice that eventually became today’s “trick-or-treat” tradition. Parents were encouraged by newspapers and community leaders to take anything “frightening” or “grotesque” out of Halloween celebrations. Because of these efforts, Halloween lost most of its superstitious and religious overtones by the beginning of the twentieth century.
Black Cats and Ghosts
Halloween has always been a holiday filled with mystery, magic, and superstition. It began as a Celtic end-of-summer festival during which people felt especially close to deceased relatives and friends. Today’s Halloween ghosts are often depicted as more fearsome and malevolent, and our customs and superstitions are scarier too. We avoid crossing paths with black cats, afraid that they might bring us bad luck. We try not to walk under ladders for the same reason. This superstition may have come from the ancient Egyptians, who believed that triangles were sacred (it also may have something to do with the fact that walking under a leaning ladder tends to be fairly unsafe). And around Halloween, especially, we try to avoid breaking mirrors, stepping on cracks in the road or spilling salt.