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What happened to Halloween?

By Staff | Oct 4, 2013

What happened to Halloween?

Before we go any further on this, just note, I did “trick-or-treat” when I was a little kid. I did go out in pursuit of enough candy to give a horse diabetes, but that’s par for the course.

In terms of commercialization of the holidays, Christmas doesn’t rank as the worst, nor does Easter. (There’s still religious value in Christmas and Easter.) Not even Labor Day, Memorial Day, Arbor Day, or even Martin Luther King day rank on that scale. No, Halloween is the worst in terms of commercialization.

As I write this, right next to me is a Party City catalog chock full of costumes for people of all ages. Okay, it’s not chock full, it’s like 18 pages, but you get my point. And it’s not just costumes, it’s also decor that was probably made overseas and on the cheap. Decor that, like Christmas, you’ll only ever use once a year.

If you were to ask someone where Halloween came from, the commercialization factor is so bad that someone will probably tell you that it was “invented” by the candy companies. A holiday invented strictly for going out in costumes, eating candy, watching horror movies, and playing pranks. In all actuality, that’s something you could be doing everyday and not even bat an eyebrow.

Halloween came from pagan traditions held by the Celts, particularly the tradition of Samhain. Samhain was a festival that marked the end of harvest/beginning of winter, and it was typically celebrated between the night of October 31 and the night of November 1 on the Gregorian calendar.

Samhain was also a time, in Irish mythology, a festival for the dead. Supposedly, around that time a doorway between this world and the next would open, allowing for the dead to communicate with the living.

Supposedly fairies also came through this “doorway” and were thought to steal people away. To combat this, people would either stay home or turn their clothes inside out and walk with salt or iron. Turnip lanterns, the precursor to the Jack-o-lanterns we know of today, were put out to light the way in the darkness (as well as represent spirits and ward off evil spirits), and offerings of food were put out by doors so that fairies would find favor with them. Costumes were meant to be a way to confuse fairies and evil spirits, as well as souls of those who were wronged and seeking revenge on wrongdoers.

Christianity had a part in its origins too. October 31, Nov. 1 and 2 are known as Hallowmas, and they’re a time for honoring saints and praying for the souls of those who recently died. Celebrating All Saints’ Day on Nov. 1 was put into place at the behest of Pope Gregory IV, either by Celtic or Germanic influence.

If you take all that into account, you’ll find that Halloween has strayed WAY far from what it once was.

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