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The Halloween story

Where did Halloween begin?

Halloween has a long history and despite its reputation as an American holiday, its roots are actually in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Surprised? We certainly were.

The name Halloween is actually a shortened version of All Hallows’ Evening. The celebration of All Hallows’ Evening arrived in America during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as an old Scottish and Irish tradition. Then throughout the nineteenth century and early twentieth century the celebration of Halloween spread across America. After World War II it started to spread into Europe and today most countries celebrate Halloween in some form or fashion.

Halloween is believed to have originally been a Celtic festival, known as Samhain, which celebrated the end of each harvest. Additionally, there was a Gaelic belief that on October 31 the worlds of the living and the dead overlapped and gave the dead an opportunity to wreak havoc on the living and even ruin the harvest. As a result certain traditions, such as burning bonfires and dressing up in order to appease the evil spirits emerged.

Today both of these practices can be observed in our own Halloween activities. The bonfires used to attract insects, which in turn attracted bats, a common feature of any Halloween event today. And of course, as we’re sure you all know, today we still dress up, however it is to have a bit of fun not to appease the evil spirits lurking in every corner.

The history of trick-or-treating is a little different. It is also thought to have been born in Britain and Ireland out of the tradition of souling, which occurred every November 1. Souling was a common practice of the poor who would travel from house to house in order to beg for food in return for prayers for the dead on the following day, All Saints’ Day. In The Two Gentlemen of Verona Shakespeare even alludes to this practice as the act of common beggars. However, there is some doubt as to whether souling and trick-or-treating are actually linked, because it wasn’t until the 1930s that trick-or-treating became popular in America.

Halloween has a deep and dark history and no one is quite sure what the whole truth behind its emergence is. Have you heard another historical Halloween tale? Do you have a favourite mystical Halloween story you prefer? Tell us we want to know.

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