From Celts to Candy

You may not like to put on a costume or walk in the cold, but you have to love the candy. What a great idea! Who came up with this concept of free treats, and why the costumes? We've done a little research and compiled this brief history of Halloween.

Halloween, as millions of kids celebrate each year, was different in many ways than at its beginning. The Celts who lived in the area now known as Ireland, the United Kingdom, and Northern France celebrated their New Year on November 1. The harvest was over and the days were getting shorter and colder. The date October 31, on which we celebrate Halloween, was the date of the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounce sow-in) or festival of the dead. The Celts believed that on this night before their New Year worlds of the living and the dead would meet. It was believed that the ghosts of the dead would return to earth. Celtic Priests called Druids were thought to have an easier time predicting future events while this vale between the two worlds was thin.

The people would gather at large bon fires built by the Druids to burn crops and animals as sacrifice to their gods. The Celts wore costumes of animal heads and skins during this celebration.

The Romans had conquered most of the Celtic region by 43 A.D. and during 400 years of rule combined two of their own festivals with the Celtic festival of the dead. Feralia, celebrated by Romans in late October, commemorated the passing of the dead. The second festival commemorated the goddess of fruit and trees named Pomona. This could explain the tradition of bobbing for apples that continues today.

In 800 A.D. Pope Boniface IV declared the catholic holiday All Saints' Day to be November 1 in, what is widely believed to be, an attempt to replace the Celtic Festival of the Dead. The celebration was called All-hallowmas. The night previous the night of Samhain began to be called All-hollows Eve, which later became called Halloween.

The presence of spirits on the night of festival of the dead motivated people to leave food out on their doorsteps to appease the spirits by helping them on their journey. It is believed that children would dress up as ghosts and swipe the food from the doorstep. Which later evolved to the act of knocking on the door to ask for a treat. Another story credits the start of Trick or Treating to the Christian ritual of 'Souling'. People would go door to door begging for Soul Cakes (flat, square breads). In return they promised to offer up prayers for any dead family members.

Today costumes are not limited to the ghostly or undead. You can suit up as your favorite super hero, cartoon character or politician. If you can't pull a costume together from items in your wardrobe, there are plenty for sale at department stores.

Regardless of where it all started, you have to be happy with how it has turned out. What a great day when you can leave your cares behind, pretend to be your favorite person, and share sweets with your neighbors. Happy Halloween!