October recalls memories of apple picking, pumpkin patches, and flannel shirts, though for most the first thought that comes to mind when thinking about October is Halloween! For many it is a time to feel like a kid again, and for many children it is time to embody the spirit of their favorite scary or not-so-scary character.
This October at Explore & More, children (and adults) will have plenty of opportunity to do trick-or-treating, dress-up, and many other Halloween themed crafts and activities. If you’re like me, you love this and look forward to these traditions every year; though have you ever pondered why we partake in these rather peculiar traditions in the first place. Dressing up, scaring people, begging for candy, and thinking of witchcraft, ghouls, and goblins, seem like rather strange activities for a holiday. So how did we get here?
There is not one simple answer, but historians agree that the origin of Halloween dates back to the ancient Celtic pagan holiday of Samhain, which was often celebrated between October 31st and November 1st; the time that the harvest would end. During Samhain those celebrating believed “that the barriers between the physical world and the spirit world break down,” – (via the BBC) with this you can start to see how the notion of the supernatural became associated with this time of year. Participants would also dress in costumes mimicking spirits.
Fast forward centuries to when Christianity spread through Europe, and the Christian holidays of All Saints Day November 1st and All Souls Day on November 2nd, morphed with centuries old pagan traditions such as Samhain. Participants would dress up as saints, and angels. This celebration would come to be called Hallowmas, which eventually would come to be Halloween – (via History.com). Medieval Christians during Hallowmas would often go door to door in their communities in a quest for soul cakes, (think biscuits), these cakes would be exchanged for prayers and people (especially children) would partake in this throughout the holiday.
Advancing multiple centuries again, we come to the newly created colonies, especially in the middle and south, where pieces of Halloween celebrations were brought with them into the Americas. Colonial festivities would be again centered around the late fall harvest. It was not until the flood of immigrants in the 1800s that Halloween would really take hold, these new Americans coming from areas such as Ireland brought with them their Christian and pagan traditions.
As the decades rolled on Halloween grew with the nation, parties were common, and trick-or-treating became a way for communities to encourage togetherness, especially as the suburbs began to draw families further apart. Halloween today is a multi-billion-dollar holiday, as people across the globe, and across WNY, celebrate. This Halloween take a minute and think about the history of this holiday, you might get inspired for a new costume!