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This is Halloween….

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So I decided in honor of Halloween I will write up a post on the history of this day. Also it gives me an excuse to share this video:

History of the Holiday

Halloween has long been recognized as a day to pay respect to the dead. Originally it is linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain, this festival was celebrated on the night before the Celtic New Year (November 1) and was thought to be the day where the boundaries between the dead and the living  fell away. On this days the ghosts of ancestors were able to enter the world of living, and those still living paid their respects to them through certain rituals. Which included bonfires, sacrifices and they also wore costumes made from animal skins.

When the Romans came and conquered the Celtic lands, there own festivals became intertwined with that of the Celts. Most famous is the festival for the goddess Pomona. Many people believe this festival is the origin of our version of Halloween. However, with the rise of Christianity the holiday began to take on a new form. In an attempt to convert the Pagan Celts into Christianity, the Pope made the 1st of November All Saints Day. The night before was known as All Hallows Eve, and many of the rituals performed for Samhain were now being adopted into this new Holiday. The history channel also made this short clip about the holiday.

Origins in America

However that still doesn’t answer the question as to why it became so popular in America. I never noticed Halloween was that big of a thing for Americans until I moved back to Germany. There Halloween, and the concept of trick-or-treating was not as popular as in the U.S. While it did pick up over the year I lived there, by the last year the entire neighborhood welcomed the idea of trick-or-treaters, it wasn’t celebrated the same way as in the U.S. For one thing, the children all dressed up with something commonly associated with the dead. Witches, werewolves, and vampires were the big hit in Germany. There were no fairies prancing around on Halloween. That was saved for another holiday, known as Karnival or Fasching. Back to why it became popular in the U.S.

It is generally accepted that the influence of the immigrants, especially those from the United Kingdom, is what led to the rise of Halloween in America. This book actually chronicles the history of Halloween as an American holiday. Before the immigrants, America was largely Protestant and therefore didn’t partake in many of the Catholic Church’s traditions. America sort of embraced the holiday as a way to build community ties. And by focusing on those ties, Halloween became a profitable enterprise sometimes around the 1920′s. (Oh Hallmark, you have done it again!) Some say Trick-or-Treating has its roots to All-Souls-Day, where poorer families would walk around and beg for food in return for their prayers. They would then receive soul cakes from the families. Finally, here is another page about the history of Halloween. There is really loads of information out there, and I think I just barely summarized what I found. It’s pretty cool. :D

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