Halloween Through the Ages

Halloween, as we know it today is one of the world’s most commercialised holidays. But the Halloween of today is a very different experience than it was 2000 years ago.

Halloween began as the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, celebrated predominantly in Ireland. On 1st November, the Celts celebrated their New Year, separating summer from the start of the colder, darker times ahead; winter was commonly associated with human death. It was believed that during this transition, the veil between the world of the living and the dead was at its thinnest, allowing ghosts to return to Earth for one night. To commemorate this, druids would build bonfires, gather to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities, cause mischief and dress up in costumes made out of animal skins to ward off ghosts. The introduction of Catholicism brought with it changes to the Pagan ritual of Samhain. A new festival, All Hallows, was celebrated on November 1st, and the night before it, All-Hallows Eve eventually led to the Halloween we all know now.

Halloween became more family friendly, losing its religious and superstitious overtones by the start of the 20th century. Halloween parties for both adults and children were the most common way to celebrate, as the holiday became more focused on bringing the community together through practices like trick-or-treating.

Today, Halloween brings with it Pumpkin Spiced Latte season, decorations, sweets and costumes taking over the shops, and an artificial ‘spooky’ buzz in the air. Halloween for kids now is known as a time to dress up and knock on strangers’ doors for free sweets. Halloween for teenagers and young adults is a chance to party and express yourself by wearing whatever you want without being judged. To quote an iconic Mean Girls line, “Halloween is the one day a year when a girl can dress up like a total slut and no other girl can say anything about it”. So, although it has lost its dark origins and original meaning, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Halloween is now a festival that brings communities together and allows people to express themselves. Festivities like Halloween may lose the significance of their origins, but they should be allowed to grow and adapt to our ever-changing society.

Jasmine Evans