Halloween is a holiday notably celebrated on the night of October 31. Activities that take place include costume parties, trick-or-treating, attending bonfires, visiting ‘haunted houses’ in the neighborhood and carving Jack O Lanterns. Majority of Halloween traditions did not arrive in North America until the late nineteenth century. This is when the Scottish and Irish immigrants arrived in North America. However, it was not until the twentieth century that the holiday began being widely celebrated all through the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Puerto Rico, Australia and New Zealand.
From the many countries, Halloween has a diverse history. However, the main origin lies with the ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain (Pronunciation- ‘sah-win’). The festival Samhain is a commemoration marking the end of the Gaelic harvest season. Through the festivities, the ancient pagan Gaels would take stock of their supplies and prepare themselves for winter. People in the Gaelic culture strongly believed that during the festival (now Halloween), the world of the living and the dead would overlap causing those who were dead to come back to life and wreak havoc on the living. Sicknesses and damage to crops would be the result of this. In an effort to appease, the living-dead, Gaelic people wore masks to mimic the spirits and appease them. They would also leave a portion of their harvest at their doorsteps to soothe the spirits. Bonfires became a common site since the fire was believed to chase the evil spirits away.
As time went on, more and more customs were added onto the holiday. The popular trick-or-treating came into the festival in the twentieth century. It is an activity for young children to teenagers where they move from one house to the other, soliciting treats from the householders. They usually ask ‘trick or treat?’ before lifting their baskets. This poses an option to the householder; they can give either treats or refuse. Majority tend to offer confectionery foods like candy to avoid the tricks. Tricks go from telling a ghost story to mischievous action taken on the property of the house owner. In Recent times, these tricks have evolved to pranks that can cause serious damage. Most people who live in a neighborhood thriving with children often buy treats like candy and chocolate bars beforehand to give the children.
Through the media, Halloween has spread throughout the world. With the Internet virtually available to everyone, information about anything and everything can be transmitted all over the world in a matter of seconds. The same is with Halloween. From costumes to food recipes, everything about Halloween can be found. In recent years, more and more people are accepting the Halloween festival bit by bit.
With the wide acceptance in the United States, Canada and Australia, there is still resistance in the United Kingdom and continental Europe. The problem is not with the holiday celebration, but with ‘trick-or-treat’ custom, especially the ‘trick’ part. Since most of these countries are commerce-driven, they exercise great caution with their property. The authorities keep strict watch on things, especially during the Halloween holiday because teenagers tend to take thing a bit too far. A number of parents have been sued because of their children’s actions.
The Christian Church tried removing the holiday from the public eye for a long time but to no avail. Since it had grown so popular among the people, they just renamed it just like other pagan-origin holidays; sprinkling holy water on it. They also tried having the holiday removed from the public school calendar. If they did this, however, it meant that most of the holidays would have to be removed since they have the same form of origin.