HCP Dishes!

Halloween: A Sweet History!

Posted by Shevaun

Tuesday October 23, 2012

Over 70 percent of American households open their doors to strangers on Halloween. The nation drops more than six billion dollars celebrating it every year. But where did it all begin? A tradition buried in ancient and religious history, the story of Halloween remains as spookily vague as the night itself…

Happy Samhain!

Halloween is believed to have originated from the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, a celebration to mark the end of the harvest. The specific details of the pagan celebration are unclear. Many believe that on Samhain, the deceased came back to mingle with the living and visit their loved ones. Others tell tales of tortured souls returning to haunt their enemies and wreck havoc on their crops. In order to avoid any serious trickery, the Celts lit the night with bonfires and carved-out turnips as organic, makeshift lanterns. They made sacrifices to the dead and danced around in masks in an attempt to disguise themselves among ghostly visitors.

In the eighth century, long after the Romans had conquered Celtic lands, Pope Gregory III made some changes to the Christian calendar in order to maintain tradition without completely vanquishing the pagan holiday. He moved “All Saints Day” from May 13 to November 1 to give the festivities of the previous night a more covert, religious feel. Dressing up as ghosts turned into dressing up as “saints.” Instead of “worshipping the dead” with food and animal sacrifices, wealthy parishioners offered “soul cakes” to the poor, who promised to pray for their deceased relatives. Samhain became known as “All Hallows’ Eve” or “Hallowe’en,” as we now know it. The practiced spread throughout Europe from the original Celtic lands, now known as Ireland.

So, at what point did “soul cakes” turn into candy? Irish immigrants helped to popularize the holiday in the United States in the mid-1800s. Adults celebrated the night with food and festive costumes, and the influences of different American cultures helped to secularize the holiday.

Photo of jar of sugary pumpkin sweets

It was not until the 1920s, by which point Halloween had become a secular, culturally accepted holiday across the United States, that children began going door to door for “trick-or-treating.” Community members were expected to provide a “treat” to avoid a “trick.” Inevitably, Hallmark mass produced the quaint tradition to the full-fledged night of sugary indulgence as we know it today.

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