I love history, research and writing. I will probably never run out of historical events.
The Samhain Festival
Samhain is pronounced Sah-win.
It is from Ireland that most of our Halloween traditions can be traced. It was in County Meath in Boyne Valley by the Tlachtga Hill and the sacred temple of the Druids. Druids acted as priests, teachers, and judges.
The ancient Celts began their festival at dusk on October 31st, lasting three days. In Ireland, Samhain is the word for November. They believed it was the day when the living and the dead collided. The festival denoted the end of the harvesting and the beginning of winter. Huge bonfires were lit, with the participants wearing costumes and masks. They would then go door-to-door offering prayers in exchange for 'soul cakes', small bread cakes.
When the Romans invaded in 43 A.D. and took over the Celts, they merged their festivals with those of the Celt's Samhain. The Roman festival called Feralia was to honor the dead. Another Roman festival added was to honor the goddess of fruit. Pomona. Pomona is associated with the apples of Halloween. At that time, the colors used were orange, for the harvest, and black for death.
Traditions of Halloween
The Irish brought the tradition of carving turnips with a candle in response to their legend of Stingy Jack. Jack was a man condemned to walk the earth for eternity after a botched ploy with the devil. Thus the name 'Jack-O-Lanterns.' Of course, today, it's pumpkins being carved.
The tradition of 'bobbing' for apples is from the Roman goddess Pomona who is symbolized by an apple. The Romans believed the first person to catch an apple with their teeth would be the first to marry the following year.
Notes of Halloween
In the 1600s, immigrants arrived in America with many traditions. It was also a time of superstitions about witches and black cats. History tells us of the Salem witch trials brought on by hysteria.
The first sanctioned Halloween celebration was held in Anoka, Minnesota, in 1921. Today, Anoka is known as the Halloween Capital of The World. The city woke up one morning to find cows roaming Main Street, windows were soaped, and outhouses were overturned(remember those!). As a distraction, the city held a parade and block party. It was so well done; it is an annual event with the police department, fire department, Kiwanis Club, the Anoka National Guard, and the public participating. Costumed children marched in the parade with treats given to them. Contests were held for best costume, window decoration, and house decoration.
During WW II, a temporary halt was in effect, but after the war, the Halloween festivities were back in spades.
In the 1950s, the handouts for Halloween consisted of toys, money, or fruit. That all changed when candy makers saw the profit for Halloween candy and began mass-producing Halloween candy. Then, costumes were another retailer's bonanza, and they, too, were mass-produced.
By 2016, Americans were spending 8.4 billion on Halloween candy, costumes, and decorations. That figure increased to 10.1 billion in 2021, candy alone was three billion. No wonder Halloween is the second-grossing holiday after Christmas.
Years of Halloween
- 1600s Settlers arrived in America with their traditions
- 1800s The Irish bring their practices of pumpkins and legends
- 1900s Costumes and candy are mass-produced
- 1921 First sanctioned Halloween Festivities held in Anoka, Mn
- 1930s Halloween halted during WW II
- 1966 Charlie Brown's It's The Great Pumpkin fil released
- 1978 The film Halloween with Michael Myers released
- 2004 Silly Putty was outlawed in Hollywood with a fine of 1000.
- 2010 Trick-or-Treat banned in Bellville, Ill.
- 2014 Some 1.8 billion pounds of pumpkins produced
- 2021 Some 10.1 billion spent on Halloween