Happy Halloween! The Origins of Spooky Season

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The myths surrounding the origin and meaning of Halloween can be misleading or, even, some might say, Satanic. Some speculate that the holiday is connected to Satan- Christian Broadcast Network founder Pat Robertson said the holiday is a “demonic ritual” and “a night when the devil rejoices.” Spooky black cats and the Hocus Pocus movie aside, the holiday has its roots in early Celtic religious traditions and Catholicism. 

Halloween falls on October 31st every year. It is also known as All Hallows’ Eve, All Saints’ Eve, and Allhalloween. The earliest roots of the Halloween tradition are from the Gaelic festival of Samhain. During this festival, people believed that the boundary between the Otherworld and this world could be crossed. It was thought that the souls of the dead could go back and revisit their homes. Dressing up in costumes may have been one way to disguise oneself from the Aos Si, which were spirits or fairies that could cross over from the Otherworld. It is believed that this holiday merged over time with the early Christian church’s All Saints Day. 

Even the carving of Jack-o-lantern has its roots in an Irish myth about “Stingy Jack” who cheated the Devil. After “Stingy Jack’s” death, God would not let him into heaven and the Devil would not let him into Hell. The legend goes that Jack roams the earth with a piece of coal in a carved-out turnip. Carving faces out of turnips and large beets and placing the finished product in windows or near doors could frighten away “Stingy Jack” or any other wandering evil spirits. 

Eventually, Irish and Scottish immigrants helped bring the nuances of this Autumn holiday to the United States. Pumpkins, which grow well in North America, replaced turnips to give us our current Jack ‘O Lanterns. Wearing costumes has morphed from a custom intended to disguise oneself and to ward off spirits into a celebration of the characters and things that people love. While Halloween has roots in pagan holidays and folklore, it has gradually become a holiday which celebrates dressing up as beloved characters and asking strangers for candy. 



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