October 31 will mark the celebrations of the Halloween festival which has a history spanning hundreds of years. Each year, people dress up in spooky costumes and children knock on the doors of their neighbours for a ‘trick-or-treat’. As the festival nears, let us take a look at how the custom originated and evolved over the years.
The festival is celebrated each year on October 31, which is the eve of the Christian holiday All Saints’ Day or All Hollows Day which is celebrated on November 1. Due to the mass that was organised on All Hollow's eve, the word Halloween was eventually coined. Some of the Halloween traditions such as lighting bonfires have their roots in the Celtic festival of Samhain, which originated in Ireland and marked the arrival of winter.
It is said that the festival of Samhain opened the pathway between our world and that of the spirits. The concept of costumes also emerged from the same belief, and people would dress up in eerie outfits to ward off the ghosts.
While the origin of Halloween is in Ireland, it eventually spread to other countries in Europe and reached the US and other nations with the colonists. The festival also evolved from its more serious form into a more fun way of celebrating, which includes playing games, sipping Halloween cocktails, and partying. Children also eventually got involved in the festival as they would dress as witches and ghosts seeking candies during trick-or-treat from their neighbours. This tradition got extremely popular by the 1950s in the USA and is one of the best seasons for the sale of candies.
Halloween also involves carving pumpkins, a tradition that also evolved from turnips. As the story goes, people in Ireland used to carve turnips to ward off the spirit of Stingy Jack, who trapped the devil and let him go on the condition of not sending Jack to hell. After his death, Jack was denied entry into heaven as well and got cursed to roam the Earth forever. This tradition of using turnip got evolved into using pumpkin in the USA as it was a native commodity.