The origins of Halloween can be traced back to the ancient Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in a region which is now Ireland. They celebrated their new year on November 1, which marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter. It was also the time of year associated with human death.
The Celts believed that on the night before the New Year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, when the ghosts of the dead returned to earth.
By the time Halloween came to Colonial America, the pagan celebration was extremely limited because of the rigid Protestant belief system. However, Halloween was much more common in Maryland and the southern colonies.
As the beliefs and customs of various European ethnic groups as well as the American Indians meshed, a distinctly American version of Halloween began to emerge. The first celebrations included public events held to celebrate the harvest and where neighbors would share stories of the dead, tell each other’s fortunes, dance and sing.
Colonial Halloween festivities also featured the telling of ghost stories and mischief-making. By the middle of the nineteenth century, annual autumn festivities were common, but Halloween was not yet celebrated everywhere in the country. In the second half of the nineteenth century, America was flooded with new immigrants who helped to popularize the celebration of Halloween nationally.
Borrowing from Irish and English traditions, Americans began to dress up in costumes and go house to house asking for food or money, a practice that eventually became today’s “trick-or-treat” tradition. Thus, a new American tradition was born.
Today, Americans spend an estimated $6 billion annually on Halloween, making it the country’s second largest commercial holiday after Christmas.
Looking for St. Petersburg Halloween fun?
- Take the Ghost Tour of Downtown St. Petersburg. Peer into the shadows and mysteries of the Sunshine City on a candlelight walking tour of downtown. Tour departs from Sweet Divas Chocolates, 181 4th Ave NE, St. Petersburg, FL 33701. For more information call: 727-894-4678 or go online http://www.ghosttour.net
- Best place to trick or treat at Halloween – The Spooktacular Old Northeast. Check out the HONNA’s website for details: https://honna.org