What Halloween Is Really All About

Jessica Terrizzi

When we were kids, Halloween was the time of year that offered an excuse to dress up, participate in fun activities, and eat as much candy as we wanted to. We didn’t care how Halloween started or even what exactly we were celebrating. But now that we’re older, it’s time to wonder what Halloween is truly all about and why we do certain things during the Halloween season.

According to History.com, Halloween originated 2,000 years ago in a Celtic Samhain celebration that marked the beginning of winter. The Celtics believed that November 1 was the last day of the summer and the day on which the world of the living and the world of the dead are the closest together. People would dress up in order to confuse spirits and avoid being possessed by them.

Another possible explanation is found on Holidays.net. This website says that the word “Halloween” came from the name “all hallows eve.” This was the name given to October 31 because November 1 was a Catholic holiday called All Saints Day, which celebrated all saints that were “hallowed.”

Many American Halloween traditions come from Celtic legends and beliefs.  Thinkquest.org says spirits were believed to disguise themselves as beggars and appear at the door asking for food. If turned down, they might haunt you forever. This began the tradition of trick or treating. Novareinna.com says that people believed black cats to be evil people who had been turned into cats as punishment for their wrongdoings. Also, it was a common belief that witches could transform themselves into cats using their magic powers. Jack-o’-lanterns came from the Irish legend of Stingy Jack, who was not allowed in either hell or heaven after tricking the devil. For this reason, he was forced to wander around in purgatory with only a lantern to guide him. Bats became linked to Halloween because, according to hauntedbay.com, people would perform rituals to scare off evil spirits. At these rituals, they would make giant bonfires. These bonfires would attract bats, linking them to evil. After the discovery of the Vampire bat, people began connecting bats to evil and Halloween.

For little kids, this coming Halloween will mean only dressing up and eating candy.  But for those of us in high school, the holiday gains greater meaning with historical significance, rooted in ancient traditions and rituals.