Halloween, or Spooky season, is the favorite holiday of many people. It gives them a chance to watch a lot of horror movies, spook others, and even reveal their quirky side without anyone judging them. Others love Halloween decorations, it gives them a cozy feeling when they decorate their house with carved pumpkins and autumn colors. Halloween is celebrated mostly in the USA, and it is rarely celebrated in Catholic households, no matter in what country they live in.
Halloween is a holiday that is celebrated each year on October 31st.
The tradition of celebrating Halloween originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. During this holiday people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III assigned November 1 to be the time to honor all saints. Shortly after, All Saints Day incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was called All Hallows Eve, and later Halloween. Over time, Halloween developed into a day of activities like trick-or-treating, carving jack-o-lanterns, festive parties, wearing costumes, and eating treats.
How do you celebrate Halloween?
To trace Halloween’s origins, we would have to go all the way back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. 2000 years ago, while Celts were still alive and inhabiting the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France, they celebrated the New Year on November 1st.
This day was considered the end of summer and harvest and the beginning of the dark and cold winter. At that time, winter was associated with human death. It was believed that on the night before the New Year, all the lines between the living and the dead were blurred. Celts celebrated Samhain on October 31st, and it was believed that that was the day ghosts returned to Earth.
On that day, Celts would damage the crops, cause trouble, and ask Druids, Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. These predictions served them as an important source of comfort during the long, dark winter.
Druids would build huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic gods. During these celebrations, Celts would wear costumes that were made out of animal heads and skins.
When the celebration would end, they re-lit their hearth fires from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming cold winter.
43 A.D. came, and the Roman Empire has conquered the majority of Celtic territory. During the 400 years that they ruled the Celtic territory, they combined two festivals of Roman origin with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain.
The first Roman festival was Feralia, which was a day in late October when they would traditionally commemorate the dead.
The second Roman festival was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. Since the symbol of Pomona is an apple, incorporating it into Samhain could possibly explain the tradition of bobbing for apples that is practiced today on Halloween.
In 609 A.D., Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Pantheon in Rome in honor of all Christian martyrs, and the Catholic feast of All Martyrs Day was established in the Western church. Pope Gregory III later expanded the festival to include all saints as well as all martyrs and made the official date of the celebration November 1.
By the 9th century, the influence of Christianity had spread into the Celtic territory, where it was slowly combined with and replaced older Celtic rituals. In 1000 A.D., the church made November 2 All Souls’ Day, a day to honor the dead. Today it is believed that the church was trying to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a similar, church-sanctioned holiday.
The celebration of All Souls’ Day was similar to that of Samhain, with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels, and devils. Other names for The All Saints’ Day celebration were All-hallows or All-hallowmas and the night before it, the traditional night of Samhain in the Celtic religion began to be called All-Hallows Eve and, finally, Halloween.
Because the beliefs and traditions of European ethnic groups and the American Indians mixed, a clearly American version of Halloween started to develop. The first celebrations held“play parties”. That were public events that were held to celebrate the harvest. It involved neighbors shareing stories of the dead, telling each other’s fortunes, dancing and singing.
Telling ghost stories and michief-making of all kinds were included in the Colonial Halloween festivities. By the middle of the 19th century, autumn festivities were celebrated every year, but Halloween was still not celebrated everywhere in the country.
Halloween only became secular but community-centered holiday somewhere durinh the 1920s and 1930s. It included parades and town-wide Halloween parties as the main entertainment.
During the 1950s Halloween had developed into a holiday directed mainly at the young. Thanks to the high numbers of young children during the fifties baby boom, parties were moved from town centers into classrooms or homes.
Between 1920 and 1950, trick-or-treating became popular again. It was a relatively inexpensive opportunity for an entire community to share the Halloween spirit. If the families didn’t want to be tricked, they could prevent them by providing the neighborhood children with treats.
And so a new American tradition was born, and it has continued to grow. Around 6 billion dollars is spent every year on Hallloween in America.
What to eat on Halloween?
Food is equally important during Halloween as dressing up, decorating, and going trick-or-treating. Here are some of the traditional Halloween food.
Candy and Caramel apples
Cany and Caramel apples are the perfect mix of sweet and tart and are fun to make year after year. To make them, take red or green apples, insert lollipop sticks and dip them in a coating of sugar, light corn syrup and water. Add a bit of red coloring to your candy mixture and dip apples one by one. After you have coated all the apples, let them to cool down until your candy-coat hardens and enjoy.
If you have a hard time eating Candy apples, you can choose to make Caramel apples. To make them, you just need soft caramel, ripe red apples, water and wooden skewers. Melt the caramel and mix it with water and light corn syrum. Stick the wooden skewer in the apple and dip it into the mixture. Wait for it to cool down before eating.
Pumpkin pie is a traditional Halloween food. It is the favorite autumn dessert for most people. To make a pumpkin pie, buy a pie crust mix, or make one yourself. Then fill it with pumpkin puree, evaporated milk and eggs, and your pie will take on a creamy and delicious texture. Add spices like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice because they round out the flavors and give your pie that fall feeling.
Because the apple season is in full swing during Halloween, apple bread is a very popular traditional Halloween food. This bread is very soft and fluffy, and it has chunks of crisp and sweet apples as well as brown sugar and cinnamon.
To make apple bread add beat eggs, sugar, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl and then add apples. Next, mix flour, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon in a separate bowl, then add to apple mixture and stir just until everything is evenly combined into a thick batter. After that, pour batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes.
Caramel corn is the easiest Halloween food to make. You just need popped popcorn, salt, butter, light brown sugar, vanilla, and baking soda.
To make caramel corn put 10 cups of corn in a bowl.
Next, melt 1 cup of butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, add 1 cup of light brown sugar and stir until completely mixed. While you continue to stir bring the butter and sugar mixture up to a boil on medium heat. Once it reaches a boil let it to cook for 5 minutes without stirring on medium heat. Add the 2 tsp. of vanilla at the 4-minute mark and mix. At the 5 minute mark, add the 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda. This will make your caramel change color and foam up a bit. Do not be afraid, this is the chemical reaction that you want, as the bubbling effect of the baking soda will aerate the caramel and make it lighter and smoother and therefore easier to coat the popcorn.
Next, drizzle the caramel mixture over the popcorn and use a spoon to carefully fold the popcorn with the mixture until they are all covered. Let them cool before eating.
Another traditional Halloween food is candy corn. In order to make candy corn, you need to put the powdered sugar, powdered milk, and salt in a large bowl and stir to combine. The next step is to, on the stovetop, combine the butter, corn syrup, and sugar and boil it for about 3-4 minutes. Then remove it from heat and stir in the vanilla. The next step is to carefully pour the mixture into the powdered sugar mixture and stir it well until it is combined. Let it cool for about 10-15 minutes.
Then divide the mixture into thirds and color two of the pieces with yellow and orange. Roll each piece into ropes, then place the ropes together and pinch them slightly until they stick together. Flatten the ropes and cut them into triangles.
Each country has its special way of celebrating Halloween, but here are some of the most common ones.
- Wearing (scary) costumes
Every year during Halloween, people get dressed in costumes. Some of the costumes are scary, but they are not required to be. You can be a superhero, a doctor, a favorite fictional character or person from history, etc. This tradition comes from the fact that the Celts believed that ghosts were wandering the earth during Samhain. To protect themselves, they wore scary costumes so they would be mistaken for an evil spirit by the ghost and left alone.
- Going trick-or-treating
There are three theories where trick-or-treating stems from. The first theory says that during Samhain, Celtic people would leave out food to appease the souls and ghosts and spirits that were traveling the Earth that night. It is believed that eventually, people began dressing as up as these otherworldly beings in exchange for food and drink.
The second theory says that trick-or-treating comes from the Scottish practice of guising. During the Middle Ages, children and poor adults would go to local homes and collect food or money, and in return, they would pray for the dead on All Souls’ Day. Guisers abandoned the prayers in favor of non-religious performances like jokes, songs, or other “tricks.”
The third theory believes that our modern trick-or-treating comes from belsnickling, a tradition in German-American communities where children would dress in costume and then call on their neighbors to see if they could guess the identities of the disguised guests. The children were rewarded with food or other treats if no one could identify them.
- Carving Halloween Jack-O’-Lanterns
Jack-O’-Lanterns originated in Ireland where they used turnip instead of pumpkin. The tradition is believed to be based on a legend about a man named Stingy Jack who repeatedly trapped the Devil and only let him go if the Devil promised that Jack would never go to Hell. However, when he died Jack learned that Heaven didn’t want his soul either, so he was doomed to wander the Earth as a ghost for all eternity. The Devil gave Jack a lump of burning coal in a carved-out turnip as a way to light his path. After a while, locals started carving frightening faces into their own pumpkins to scare off evil spirits.
- Being scared of black cats
The belief that black cats are scary originated from the Middle Ages when the dark cats were a symbol of the Devil. Centuries later, accused witches were often found to have cats, especially black ones, as pets. People started believing that the black cats were assisting witches with dark magic.
- Bobbing for apples
This game’s origin can be traced all the way back to a courting ritual that was s part of a Roman festival honoring Pomona, the goddess of agriculture and abundance. Young men and women would be able to foretell their future relationships based on the game. After the Romans conquered the British Isles, the Pomona festival was combined with the similarly timed Samhain, an ancestor to Halloween.
There are some traditions that are unique to their country.
- Austria has a Pumpkin Festival in Retzer Land called Kürbisfest im Retzer Land. Martini is celebrated on November 11th. It includes costumes and a lantern procession. There is a belief that by leaving bread, water, and a lighted lamp, dead souls would be welcomed back to Earth.
- China was first introduced to Halloween through foreigners such as teachers and ex-pats. In places that have many ex-pats, they are usually decorated with Halloween decor. Some of the more popular days of the dead are celebrated in festivals such as the Hungry Ghost Festival, the Qing Ming Festival, the Double 9th Festival, and the Spring Festival.
- The “trick-or-treat” tradition is “Mischief Night” in England. While people in the US carve pumpkins, English children carve designs out of large beets which are known as “punkies.”
- Recently Halloween in Hong Kong has become increasingly popular. Hong Kong uses Halloween to advertise its theme parks such as Disneyland and Ocean Park. Hong Kong citizens also decorate their shopping centers to match the spooky mood.
- Halloween in Japan first became popular when Tokyo Disneyland and Universal Studios Japan started to promote Halloween celebrations. In 2000, Tokyo Disneyland held its first Halloween event, which has since largely grown in popularity. The Japanese currently celebrate with decorations and by dressing up in costumes.
- Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a popular celebration in Latin America, Mexico, and Spain. They believe that on October 31st, spirits visit their families and then leave again on November 2nd. Their families put up decorations and food for the return of the spirits. This celebrates death, rather than mourning.