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U.S. Inside/Background

The Origin of Halloween

Halloween is not a official holiday but anyway a special day for adults as well as kids. It's celebrated in the United States but is well-known in England, Scotland, Ireland by the name 'trick or Treat' and - most important - has even its origin there.

Nowadays: children - disguised in scary costumes - go from door to door in their neighborhood and shout the phrase 'trick or treat' when the door is answered.
All kind of sweets (the treats) are very welcomed by them - if you don't give something be aware that they might play a 'trick' on you.

In former times:
the religious holiday 'All Saints Day' exists approximately since the year 800 and the evening before was called 'All Hakkiw' what became the name giver for 'Halloween'. In addition, the last day in October was the last day of the Celtic year - the day when the souls of the dead met together with the alive. The last day in October and the ritual on this day is comparable with 'Thanksgiving Day' of modern times since the Celtics thanked their gods for a rich harvest and were ready for a new year.
It was custom that people baked bread, dressed up in costumes to look scary and dangerous (and unrecognizable!), and walked through town to meet the souls of the dead. They brought the bread to a place at the boundary of their community and hoped that this ritual would placate the spirits and that they would leave before midnight, marking the beginning of the New Year. Taking the bread and leaving peacefully... this sounds comparable to childrens 'treat or trick', doesn't it?

So the English, Scottish, and Irish inherited this custom from the Celtics, who populated the British Islands before. However, there were certainly changes when Christianity found its way to the people of the British Islands. October 31 was - of course - no longer the last day of the year and nobody, at least church-wise, wanted to hear and know about souls of the dead that needed to be placated. Of course not! Instead, the custom was kind of remodeled - it became a celebration day for kids who jumped into scary looking costumes and ran from house to house to get 'treats' - otherwise the 'trick' would follow. With this little change the custom could be hold up without disturbing the peace and view of the church. And: 'treat or trick' was born!

It was around 1840 when the first large emigration waves to the United States started out in Europe. Those immigrants brought the custom to the United States.

Today, Halloween is celebrated not only by children but also by adults again. But in contradiction to the Celtics the modern day adults redesidned the custom to a party event and it has less to to with bread and fear but with drinks and fun.

Since Halloween is strongly connected with ghosts and the dead it's understandable why black cats, skelletons, witches, 'rest-in-peace-' grave stones, etc., are the symbols of Halloween.
But what about the pumpkin - why are people carving scary faces into it? That custom was just added to the Halloween celebration and has nothing to do with the Celtics. It's said it comes from a legend that tells us the story of a man named 'Jack' who were neither allowed to go to heaven nor to hell. So he has to wander through the world, the darkness, the time, whatsoever, and uses a lantern to lighten up his way. This is the origin of hollowing out a pumpkin, carving a face into it and putting a candle inside. This pumpkin lantern became known as 'Jack o' lantern'. 'Jack o' lantern'in the window of a house signalschildren that the people in the house are willing to give treats...

Statistics say that Americans spend around 2.5 to 3 billion dollar every year for Halloween which is the second largest amount after Christmas. Between the half and two thirds of all adults tend to go to some type of Halloween party and those who buy a costum often spend up to 100 Dollars for it!
Happy Halloween!

The pumpkin symbol 'Jack o Lantern' as House decoration
The pumpkin symbol 'Jack o Lantern' as House Decoration

House decoration
House decoration



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Source: magazineUSA.com
Last modified: 20041020
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