Europe – The Birthplace of Halloween

Halloween is one of the most fun festivals there is out there, and the most loved too. And for good reason, and why wouldn’t it be? The costumes, the make-up, the candy, the trick or treating, spend time with your friends, what’s there not to love? Halloween is a festival that is celebrated each year on the 31st of October. People have parties, gatherings; they go from house to house trick or treating people. That is the general culture of Halloween. But there is a lot of history attached to this festival that is extremely interesting. If you think you will enjoy getting to know more about how this festival originated, please keep reading.

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Halloween was originally an ancient festival of the Celtic pagans of the Samhain (pronounced as sow-in). This Irish word literally translates to summer’s end. This period was not only the end of the summer but also the end of the harvest season. Hence, this festival marked the end of the summer in ancient times. According to the Celtics, Samhain was the night when the veil between our world and the spirit world was the thinnest, and that communication with the other realm was easily possible on this night. The Celtics used to burn their crops and animals as a sacrifice to their Gods and then would wear the animal skins as a costume. The fire they were burnt in was believed not only to be protective, but also for cleansing. This tradition began thousands of years ago. Alternatively, some historians have laid down theories of the festival being originated by the Irish and the Romans. It is believed that when Romans took over the Celts, they mixed the fest with a Roman festival called Feralia or Pomona, which was their day to remember the passing of the dead.

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The original names of Halloween were All Saints’ Day, or All Hallows’ Eve. It is said that this day was Christianized as the above name by the Church. However much the debate might go on about the origin of this festival, the classic tradition of trick or treating began in Ireland in the 11th century. They sang songs in exchange for survival. A custom was made where kids used to sing prayers in exchange for soul cakes. When the cakes were had, they marked a freeing of soul from purgatory. This tradition went on for several centuries and kept evolving. Instead of prayers, they began to sing songs or poems and tell jokes, and in return they received fruit, or sometimes even money. This changed into kids playing tricks on adults in order to get treats from them. How this came to be in America is when the immigrants from UK settled in America and brought these tradition with them. Since then, this festival has just gotten bigger to be what it is today. The scale of this festival became colossal over time and through countries and continents.

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Some prominent Halloween traditions are carving pumpkins, having costume parties, going to haunted locations, and watching spooky flicks. These activities make this festival fun on another level. Even though this festival is not big India, I really hope it will be in the coming years. A fun fact about Halloween candy is that around 600 million pounds of candy is sold every year in America for Halloween. That definitely is a pretty huge amount!
This was a short piece on the very interesting history of Halloween in Europe. This has been one of my favorite festivals since I was a kid, and maybe now it will be yours too. I hope you learnt something new about this spooky festival and enjoyed the article!
- Kinjal Dixit