When: October 31st
Where: United States
Why: Ancient Celtic festival celebrated by the Samhain (people of Ireland) where they put up bonfires and wore costumes to scare off ghosts
History: Halloween is a big deal, especially in the US. Kids dress up as superheroes and princesses and the day is filled with fun activities and lots of candy. But where did the holiday originate from and how did it become so popular?
2,000 years ago, the Celts celebrated this holiday on November 1st. This day marked the end of summer and beginning of long, brutal winters. They also thought that on this day, humans and ghosts co-existed amongst each other. To scare off the ghosts, they built big bonfires, where people gathered and sacrificed animals. They wore customs that were primarily made from animal skins and heads and would spend the night telling each other’s fortune.
When the Irish started immigrating to US during the Great Famine, the holiday did exist but only in certain parts of the country. With the Irish’s arrival, the holiday became extremely popular. The tradition of “trick or treat” also began once the Irish came. Kids would dress up and ask for food or money. Young women would play with yarn or string to see the name or appearance of their future husband. During this time, Halloween became more of neighbors getting together and community events than scaring away ghosts and playing pranks.
By the 1920’s and 1930’s, communities started to have town hall events and parades. Trick-or-treating was a relatively inexpensive way for an entire community to share the Halloween celebration. In theory, families could also prevent tricks being played on them by providing the neighborhood children with small treats.
Thus, a new American tradition was born, and it has continued to grow.