by Scott Sorensen, sophomore writing coach
This is not a debate—we all love Halloween. So to save time, I’m not gonna debate how amazing it is. We’ll just jump right into what this blog post is really about—the history of October’s spookiest day.
I originally thought it was pretty simple, but it turns out that Halloween has its origins all over the place. To start with, it doesn’t come from one particular location. It’s a big smoothie of different cultures that all have one thing in common: they all honor the dead. From the Mexican holiday Dia de Los Muertos–an annual day for paying homage to the dead–to All Saints Day in Europe, there are celebrations all over the place. The first traceable origin of Halloween, though, was an ancient Celtic festival called Samhain. This was the Celts’ New Year, and also the annual shift into the harsh winter months. On this border between summer and winter, life and death, they believed that the lines between our world and the next blurred. So on October 31st, they celebrated the ghosts of the dead returning to earth. They’d have big bonfires, and dance around them in costumes made from animals they hunted. So here, we found the inspiration for Halloween costumes.
Later on, the Roman Empire barreled through and took over the Celtic lands. As a common strategy, empires encouraged assimilation with people they conquered, so they combined their holidays with those of the new people in order to create a more homogeneous kingdom and overall unity. The Romans were no different. They combined Samhain and older Roman festivals, especially those about the transition between this life and the afterlife. These traditions blossomed over empires and centuries, and the lines between different cultural celebrations became blurred.
Eventually, it evolved into what we now know as Halloween. This leaves us with one last question. How did it get to us, and the rest of America? In colonial days, Because of devoutly Christian immigrants to America, there was little celebrating done each year by colonists. Slowly, though, Halloween began to rise up. It mixed with Native American traditions, just like Celtic ideas did with the Romans, and an American Halloween was born. With the arrival of more and more immigrants who further reinforced our vision, the holiday prospered into its current popularity.
I think that ties up all the loose ends. As for candy corn, I have no explanation. Some dude probably just looked at a candle one day and wondered what it would be like if it tasted good. The history there isn’t my problem, though. I’ll eat my candy corn in peace.