I was thinking about the Halloween decorations that are still upstairs in my attic, wondering when I was going to carve out time to go find them, and the question dawned on me like it never had before..... Why do we decorate our homes with skeletons and ghosts every October?? And, how did trick-or-treating become a thing anyway??
I did a little research, and found it quite interesting. It turns out that Halloween's origins began a very long time ago....
About 2,000 years ago the ancient Celts (the people who inhabited parts of modern-day France, Ireland, and the United Kingdom) had a New Year's festival called Samhain. It was celebrated at the end of harvest, and the beginning of their new year, November 1st. On the night before Samhain, October 31st, it was believed that the dead returned to the earth as ghosts. People delighted in the opportunity to make contact with their departed ancestors, and priests were known to make accurate predictions for the future on this spooky night. The Celts also left food and wine on their porches to keep the dead spirits at bay, and they built huge bonfires, burnt crops and animals as sacrifices to Celtic dieties and wore costumes to ward of roaming, evil ghosts.
Later, the Christian church turned Samhain into All Saints Day, and October 31st became "All Hallows Eve", which later was shortened to Halloween. In the mideival tradition of guising, young people dressed up in costumes and accepted food, wine, or other treats in exchange for singing, reciting poetry or telling jokes. Now, we fast forward many, many years to 19th century America, where Irish and Scottish immigrants began reviving some of these old traditions. In the 1950's Halloween became the the fun, family friendly, kid-centered, commercial, trick-or-treating holiday that we know today.
And just because I found this fasicanating....each year, Americans spend an estimated 2.5 billion on Halloween costumes, and 3.5 billion on Halloween candy, making it the second most commercial holiday after Christmas! So there you have it!