Where Did Halloween Come From?

It’s about time for all the little ghouls and goblins to make an appearance as we decorate our homes in spooky lights, faux spider webs, and the latest animated mechanical props lying in wait for the little ones to dare approach our front doors.

The origin of what we now call Halloween dates back thousands of years to the ancient Celtic festival of “Samhain”.  The Celts were primarily from what is now Ireland, with a sprinkling of the UK and Northern France.  November 1 was recognized as the beginning of the new year for the Celts.  It marked the end of summer and the end of harvest season and began the long cold winter for the region.  It was believed that the night before the new year represented a point in time when the worlds of the dead and the living could be crossed.  Spooky huh!

The Roman Empire conquered this region allowing Roman rituals to mix somewhat with the Celtic traditions to celebrate the dead late in October.  By the 7th century, Christianity and Pope Gregory III caused All Saints’ Day or All Hallows Day to be celebrated on November 1.  The prevailing belief is that the church was trying to replace the Celtic Festival of the dead with a church-centered holiday.

Long story short, the beginnings of Halloween as we might think of it today is due in large part to the Irish Potato Famine in the mid 1800’s that caused many from that region to flee and to immigrate to the US where their take on All Hallows Eve (the night before All Hallows Day), included carving of turnips in which they placed an ember to ward off the spirits.  Once the jack o’lantern became celebrated here in the US, the turnip was quickly replaced with the much more sizable and delightful-to-carve pumpkin.

In recent years, Americans have spent roughly $9 Billion on Halloween each year to celebrate the second biggest holiday in the country, only second to Christmas.  Of the $9 Billion, roughly a third is spent on costumes, a third on decorations, and a third on candy and greeting cards.

Every day, there are at least 10 million glasses of Guinness served.  In support of the Irish contribution to the fun we now have with Halloween parties, trick-or- treating, and general excuse to make outrageous costumes to impress our friends, I suggest making it 10 million and one glasses of Guinness as we tip our hats to the Irish for bringing such a fun tradition to the US.

At the Law Offices of Jason E. Taylor, we enjoy learning about those traditions that make up the uniquely American experience of blending the lives and history of so many to make us what we are today.  Thanks to that history, we are thankful to celebrate Halloween with you, our friends, and we look forward to serving each and every community we call home and for which you allow us to do good work on your behalf.  Happy Halloween!

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