why do we celebrate halloween

Answers to why do we celebrate halloween

Since I was brought up in a family that has never celebrated Halloween, I have always wondered why do we (as a culture) in the United States celebrate Halloween? What is the whole reason behind dressing up in silly costumes and going trick-or-treating? Should Christians celebrate Halloween? What exactly is it that we are celebrating and what is the reasoning or history behind it?

Halloween is full of costumes and candy, trick-or-treating and terrifying haunted houses, pumpkins and black cats. But just where did Halloween come from? Why are we celebrating?

The history of Halloween goes back 2000 years. Many believe that Halloween’s origins are found in the Celtic festival of Samhain. The Celts, who were located in Ireland, the UK and the northern parts of France, celebrated their New Year on the first of November. Samhain was celebrated the night before the New Year.

The New Year, Celts believed, marked summer’s end, harvest time, and the start of dark, cold winter months. Those winter months were associated with death by these people. On October 31, the night before the New Year, the Celts celebrated Samhain. This day, they believed, was when the ghosts of the deceased returned to earth because the boundaries between the living world and the dead world blurred.

When we think of “Trick-Or-Treating”, the origins can probably be found in the English All Souls’ Day parades. During these celebrations, the poor would come out and beg for food from the more wealthy families. When the families gave them pastries called “soul cakes”, they asked for the poor to pray for their relatives that had passed away.

Another possibility that may have grown into “Trick-Or-Treating” is the tradition of people leaving bowls of food in front of their homes. They did this to keep the ghosts that were wandering the earth from entering.

Dressing in costumes has a couple possible origins. European and Celtic people both felt winter was a frightening time. It was cold, it was darker, and the possibility of running out of food was great. When they reached the time when they thought the dead returned, they thought they might encounter these ghosts whenever they left their houses. The wearing of masks and costumes grew from these people donning masks so the ghosts would not recognize them!

This holiday was brought to the US by Scotch and Irish immigrants in the 1800s. At that time, much of the “spookiness” of the holiday was removed and a sense of community and fun were added. Although scary themes are still the focus of many Halloween celebrations, that scariness is done for fun, not because of actual fear.

Halloween is currently the 2nd largest commercial holiday!

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Pumpkins protect your home. To ward off demons, people in Ireland carved faces into turnips and potatoes, and set them in their windows. But when they came to the New World, they discovered pumpkins were more plentiful and easier to carve, so they switched.

Lighting a candle says "welcome". Setting out a glowing jack-o-lantern encourages protective visitors to drop by. How'd it start? Candles are a modern day version of the bonfires the early Celts built to invite wandering good spirits to stop by and warm themselves before winter set in.

Owls bring wisdom. The Druids believed Halloween night was ruled over by a goddess who disguised herself as an owl. The reason was because owls only come out at night, they were thought to be wise and have special knowledge of the spirit world.

Putting out candy brings blessings. Trick or treating on Halloween got its start in thre 9th century when poor European villagers went door to door on that night asking for currant studded soul cakes. Each donor who gave would then be blessed for the remainder of the year.

Wearing a costume scares off trouble. The idea of dressing up goes back to the Druids, who disguised themselves in elaborate costumes and masks to dance around the Halloween fire and scare away spirits. Later, the Scottish and Irish adapted the tradition by dressing up as ghouls.

Bobbing for apples boosts your love life. The Druids believed apples represented fertility, and that the first person to successfully bob for one would be the first to marry. After catching an apple between your teeth, you were supposed to sleep with it under your pillow - to ensure dreams of your future mate.

Full moons bring a good harvest. In autumn, a full moon looks bigger and more orange, which is why it's the color of Halloween. The Celts called these "harvest moons" because they appeared only during the fall harvest.

A black cat improves your luck. Popular superstitions to the contrary, most cultures have revered black cats as lucky. And in Scandinavia, they carry the added aura of romance. It's said they pulled the chariot of Freya, the Norse goddess of passion.

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