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Halloween Through History

Every year children don their halloween costumes and run from door to door asking for candy. Adults pull on their outfits and head out to a Halloween party. At this time of year the air has gotten cooler and the leaves have turned to different shades of yellow, red and orange. Traditions like jack-o-lanterns and trick or treating are carried on from generation to generation. However, very few people know why they are celebrating the holiday. The history of Halloween is a long and fascinating blend of many different cultural tales.

The orgins of Hallowen

The holiday originally began as a celebration for the end of the harvest season. Through out most of Europe villages and families gathered around bonfires. This was the time of year where the people would stock back goods for winter, and enjoy one last feast before the harsh cold season began. It was also during this time of year that the Celts and other Europeans believed that the vale between this world and the other world was at its thinnest. Many people would wear masks and costumes to avoid being recognized by any wondering spirits that may have come out to walk among the living for the night.

Modern Halloween can thank the Irish for the jack-o-lantern. Unlike today's large pumpkins the Celts used turnips. The story that created the jack-o-lantern is about a man named Jack. Jack reportedly tricked the Devil into climbing a tree. Once the Devil was in the tree Jack carved a cross in the truck, trapping the Devil. The Devil made a deal with Jack to never try to temp him again in exchange for being let out of the tree. Jack lived on, but when he died he was not allowed into Heaven or Hell. Instead the Devil gave Jack a single ember to find his way about in the night. Jack carved a lantern out of a turnip to keep his ember from blowing out. This tradition continued for many generations in Ireland, and came to America. Seeing that the pumpkin was so much more plentiful than the turnip the jack-o-lantern was then carved from the larger gourd.

Trick or treating was also began in Europe. When the Catholic church covered most of Europe they created a new holiday, All Saints Day. This day took place on November 1st. It was an attempt to over shadow the pagan rooted holiday. The harvest celebration then became known as All Hallows Eve, the eve of All Saints Day. On this night young adults and children would go door to door begging for coin or tarts. The trick as began during this time. If a rich family did not give to the poor when they came to the door then they would be dealt a trick for not being kind to the more needy.

It was the Irish who brought Halloween to America in the 1800's during the great potato famine. The large influx of immigrants soon influenced other citizens, and trick or treating became a yearly event. Heading out to a Halloween party during this time was as common place as it is today. The holiday began to be celebrated as a community event, and by the 1920's it was a large industry. Soon paper costumes were being made for children, but in the 1950's vandalism boomed. The acts of a few created problems for the whole. The family and community celebration then became focused on the younger children. This was also due to the baby boom that occurred at the time.

Beyond vandalism, there were many rumors and stories about razor blades in apples and candy laced with poison. Today the fear of strangers and poisoned candy drives to community candy drives, like trick or treating in local churches and parking lots. This was largely due to the high amount of vandalism and fearful stories that happen in the generations before.

Today Halloween is a great way for families to get together, and for kids to get some free candy. Through out history it has evolved and changed to fit the needs of the people who celebrated it. From the ancient Celts who believed that ghosts would roam the Earth to the modern funny costumes of superheros found at a Halloween party, it still serves as a celebration to bring people together.