Tonight the youngest in your house will surely be dressing up in a plethora of different costumes before they head out to parade your neighbourhood streets and serenade all houses with the familiar ‘TRICK or TREAT!!’ in exchange for candy. But, have you ever wondered where Halloween and all the associations we have with this event come from?! Here are some facts to share and impress your friends tonight as you diligently wait on the sidewalk while your goblins march up to countless front doors and stock up on the goodies that admit it, you can’t resist yourself!
Halloween is believed to have started as a Celtic harvest festival as a way to celebrate a new year, the end of summer, and the start of the darker half of the year. It was also a time when the Celts believed that ghosts would come out. Centuries later it was adopted into the Christian church as the night before All Saint’s Day on November 1st. Known then as All Hallow’s Eve (and eventually shortened to Halloween) it was common in the Christian faith to begin celebratory events the night before the celebrated day. In Ireland, the turnip was originally carved into a literal lantern, but among immigrants in North America, the pumpkin was favoured. The carving of Jack-o-Lanterns at Halloween is commonly believed to have been a practice associated with the creation of lanterns to ward off evil sprits. Putting carved pumpkins as lanterns in front windows of homes has also been believed to prevent evil spirits from entering one’s home, and hence why scary faces were carved into them.
Canvassing for candy in costume also has historical roots. Dressing up and going door-to-door for food was already happening with the Celts who put food out for ghosts at night and in Britain and Ireland in the 1500’s it was known as mumming. In the 1800’s in Britain, there are records of people bellowing out verses or prayers at one’s door in exchange for food, with a warning of misfortune if they were not greeted or welcomed. So, the ‘trick’ in your kids’ eager and benign squeals tonight are in essence an echo of a historical threat to do damage to one’s property if they were not welcomed with food or cakes-hence, with ‘treats’!
Because Halloween was associated with the celebration of souls and of the dead, original costumes were often an element of the supernatural world. However, in modern times and since Halloween really took off in North America since the 1930’s, costumes have changed to incorporate a wide range of characters and ideas.
The symbolic and more serious origin of Halloween could have never foreseen how popular this celebratory event could get. According to Forbes magazine, ‘This year, total spending is expected to hit an all-time high of $8.4 billion, a significant increase on $6.9 billion in 2015.’ Chew on that fact while you chew on your mini-chocolate bars after the kids go to bed! Stay safe and have fun tonight, and from all of us, Happy Halloween!