The history of Halloween dates back many, many centuries to an ancient Celtic festival called Samhain when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts. Later, in the 8th century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1st as “All Saints Day”, a day to honor all of the Saints. The evening before All Saints Day became known as “All Hallows Eve”, later becoming known as Halloween.
The Celtics considered November 1st to be the beginning of the new year. It marked the end of summer and fall harvest and the beginning of what was usually a long, cold, dark winter, often associated with death. The Celtics believed that on October 31st, All Hallows Eve, the line between the world of the living and the world of the dead became blurred. They would celebrate Samhain when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead would return to earth.
By 43 A.D. the Roman empire had conquered most of the Celtic territory and eventually two of their festivals had combined with the Celtic tradition of Samhain. One was Feralia, a day when the Romans remembered the passing of the dead. The other was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman Goddess of fruit and trees whose symbol is the apple. It is believed that the tradition of “bobbing” for apples comes from the combination of honoring Pomona and celebrating Samhain. A tradition that is still common at Halloween parties today.
These ancient traditions evolved over the centuries, eventually making it to America. Halloween celebrations were more common in Maryland and southern colonies due to the very strict Protestant belief system in many of the New England colonies. As the belief systems of the many different European as well as Native American groups meshed, the American Halloween  as we know it began to form. However, it wasn’t until well into the second half of the 19th century that we started to really see the Halloween we know take shape.
The tradition of  trick or treating started to appear in the 1800’s and originated from Irish and English traditions. Americans wanted to make Halloween more of a holiday about community and by the late 1800’s Halloween had lost most of its superstitious and religious overtones. The history of Halloween has taken many twists and turns over the centuries. Nowadays we see Halloween as more of a way to get together with friends and neighbors. A day for the kids to dress up and celebrate with classroom parties and trick or treating. So don your favorite costume and enjoy your Halloween!
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