October 26, 2021

Halloween is celebrated annually on October 31st. It originated as the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts.

Mostly in Ireland, the UK and Northern France the new year was celebrated on November 1st, marking the end of the summer and the beginning of winter. A time often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the living and the dead became blurred . Believing that on October 31st the ghosts of the dead returned to earth.

Later in the eight century it became known as the All Hallows’ Eve and later Halloween. The celebration evolved into a day of trick-or-treating, carving pumpkins and lanterns, wearing costumes and eating treats.

The Celts thought that the ghosts caused trouble and damaged their crops which they were totally dependent on to get them through the long winter. They built large sacred bonfires burning crops and animals as sacrifices. wearing costumes, usually animal heads and skins and telling fortunes.
The fires were re-lit after being put out in the belief that the sacred bonfire would protect them during the winter.

The Romans had conquered by 43 A.D. ruling the Celtic areas for 400 years. Some of their festivals were combined with the traditional Celtic ones. One of these was a day to honour Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple. Probably explaining the modern day tradition of bobbing for apples.

In America, the celebrating of Halloween was very limited due to Protestant beliefs. Only common in the southern colonies. Gradually beliefs and customs of European groups and American Indians combined, resulting in a very early version of Halloween. The early celebrations saw neighbours gather to celebrate the harvest, share stories of the dead, tell each other’s fortune, sing and dance.

The middle of the 19th century was the beginning of annual festivals becoming common place but not all over the country.

The second half of the century saw an influx of immigrants, especially the Irish fleeing the potato famine. This in turn made Halloween celebrations popular nationally.

Trick-or-treating was born as the Americans began to dress up and go to houses asking for food or money.

In the late 1800’s Halloween became a community holiday where neighbours would gather and celebrate. No longer focused on ghosts, pranks and witchcraft.

By the end of the century parties for adults and children became popular, playing games, seasonal foods and costumes. Halloween celebrations were encouraged to be less “frightening “ and “grotesque” and no longer focusing on superstitions and religion.

In the UK, the 1920’s and 30’s experienced Halloween parties that were celebrated by the community which included parades. By the 1950’s it became a holiday directed at children. Celebrations were moved from venues to class rooms and homes.

Trick-or-treat also made a come back. It was an inexpensive way for the whole neighbourhood to take part. Families could provide a treat, to avoid having a trick played on them.

Today Halloween is big business, especially in America. It has become the second biggest holiday after Christmas !

Here is a list of Halloween films to get you in the mood:



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