The Spirit of Halloween


Ghouls, goblins, trick-or-treating and apple-bobbing. But how did the celebration of Halloween begin?

Halloween. When you hear this word, what thoughts come to your mind? Most likely, you think of costumes, candy, trick-or-treating and pumpkins. Perhaps outdoor decorations of bubbling cauldrons, wart-faced witches and ghostly ghouls. One would think this celebration is for the small children, walking up and down the neighborhood with mom or dad, hoping to fill their plastic sack to the brim with goodies.

However, once the children make their way door-to-door, this October 31 celebration takes on a different meaning. Because All Hallow’s Eve, a Christian-rooted holiday, becomes an excuse for teenagers and adults to attend parties scantily dressed and enjoy holiday-themed alcoholic beverages. This wasn’t the intention of this holiday when it began over 2,000 years ago.

All Hallow’s Eve

According to this history website, All Saint’s Day, or All Hallow’s Eve, is a combination of Celtic, Catholic and Roman traditions. To start at the beginning, one must go back 2,000 years to the days the Celts inhabited present day Ireland and the United Kingdom. During this time, Celts celebrated their new year November 1. This date signified the beginning of cold, harsh climates which was connected with sickness and death.

To celebrate the night when the living and the dead collided, October 31, Druids, or Celtic priests, built bonfires for people to burn offerings and animal sacrifices. The people dressed in costume-like apparel, typically animal hides and heads.

Why we bob for apples on Halloween

Later in time Romans conquered most of the Celtic land, reshaping the celebration of Halloween to fit their beliefs. One day was Feralia, a day late in October dedicated to honoring the dead. The second day was a tribute to the goddess of fruits and trees, Pomona. Pomona’s symbol is the apple, which theoretically gives explanation to the present apple-bobbing activity we now take part in.

Once the late 800’s came, Catholic-Christians took the festivity and created a holiday, which they called Hallowmas, to honor the dead. This was recognized with costumes, typically angels and demons, parades and bonfires.

America’s version of Halloween

As European immigrants made their way over to America, different versions of this holiday collided. It stayed in the Maryland and southern states arena until new immigrants boated over, bringing their share of customs, values and religious beliefs.

Protestant, Catholic, Native American and Irish cultures has mixed together like candy and corn to create what we celebrate as the holiday known as Halloween. It may have lost much of its meaning along the way, but Halloween is as popular as ever.