Origins of Halloween

By: Aislinn Olvera

Halloween originated from the ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain, where people would light bonfires and dress in costumes to ward off any type of ghost. Samhain marked the end of summer and harvest and initiated the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time during the year that was associated with human death. On October 31, Celts celebrated Samhain, when it was believed, and still is, that ghosts of the dead returned to earth. It was soon referred to as All Hallows-Eve, and eventually, Halloween.

Halloween celebration was limited in colonial New England because Protestant belief systems there. Maryland celebrating Halloween was more common, including the southern colonies.During this time, beliefs and customs of European ethnic groups and American Indians meshed, a distinctly American version began to emerge. These celebrations included “play parties,” public events to celebrate the harvest. Neighbors would share stories of the dead, tell each other’s fortunes, dance and sing. This also included the telling of ghost stories and mischief making. In the middle of the 19th century, the festivities were common, but Halloween was not yet celebrated everywhere in the country.

Whenever immigrants came to America, mainly the Irish fleeing the Irish Potato Famine helped to popularize the celebration of Halloween nationally.