The Origins of Halloween

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Halloween is a widely celebrated holiday in the United States, often involving some form of trick or treating, fall treats, pumpkin carving, costumes, and scary movies and traditions. However, many do not know the origins of the national Holiday and how it came to be.

The origins of Halloween are actually from Ireland, known instead as All Hallows Eve. Passed down through Irish folklore, this occasion can be traced back to Celtic and Pagan traditions, as a celebration of the end of summer and the start of the autumn season.

It is said that this celebration of the Celtic new year involved lighting fires, feasting on crops of the harvest, and oral storytelling. Perhaps this created the far translation to telling scary stories and eating caramel apples and candy in the U.S., but for the Irish, it maintains a different meaning altogether.

It has been said that on All Hallows Eve, or Halloween, spirits can cross between the spirit realm and the mortal realm. Wearing costumes was believed to offer protection from these spirits so that tricks could not be played on people, and they could not be abducted or overtaken.

In Ireland, many of the Halloween traditions have been passed down since the establishment of these celebrations. It has been told in many accounts, now available in the digitized version of the Irish National Folklore Foundation, that celebratory activities included burning nuts, bobbing for apples (both in water and hanging from the ceiling), and throwing cabbage stalks at other people’s doors. There are many traditions, all with various intended and believed meanings, and they all trace back generations.

So this Halloween when you’re trick or treating, dressing in costume, or bobbing for apples, I encourage you to think about where these traditions came from and to continue passing down traditions for generations to come.