Believe it or not, the popularity of Halloween is growing exponentially. Americans spend over $5 billion dollars annually on Halloween, making it the country’s second largest commercial holiday. The word Halloween means the evening before All Hallows Day, or All Saint’s Day celebrated on Nov. 1. Halloween is also the shortened name of Allhalloween, All Hallows’ Evening and All Saint’s Eve which is celebrated on Oct. 31. The origin and meaning of Halloween are derived from ancient Celtic harvest festivals, but more recently we think of Halloween as a night filled with candy, trick-or-treating, pumpkins, ghosts and death.
The holiday began over 1,900 years ago in England, Ireland and northern France. It was a Celtic celebration of the new year, called Samhain which occurred on Nov. 1. The Celtic druids honored it as the biggest holiday of the year and emphasized that day as the time when the souls of the dead supposedly could mingle with the living. Bonfires were a large aspect of this holiday as well. Samhain remained popular until St. Patrick and other Christian missionaries arrived in the area. As the population began to convert to Christianity the holiday began to lose its popularity. However, instead of abolishing pagan practices such as “Halloween” or Samhain, the church instead used these holidays with a Christian twist to bring paganism and Christianity together, making it easier for local populations to change to the state religion. The Halloween we know of today was free styled and customized by the western part of civilization.
Today, costumes take the place of disguises and candy has replaced fruits and other fancy foods as children go door-to-door trick-or-treating. Originally trick-or-treating began as “souling,” when children would go door-to-door on Halloween, with soul cakes, singing and saying prayers for the dead. Over the course of history, Halloween’s visible practices have changed with the culture of the day, but the purpose of honoring the dead, veiled in fun and festivities, has remained the same.
During my childhood, Halloween was my second favorite holiday behind Christmas. Not only did we as kids get to dress up in costumes, we also had bundles of candy once the night was over. As children, we are not thinking about demons, witches, ghouls and the origins of Halloween. Our main focus was directed towards candy, candy and more candy. It was not until I reached middle school when my teachers taught us the meaning of Halloween and where it all started. By that age, I was not as big on costumes, but I still lived for a bucket of candy. My family is full of Christians and whenever Halloween comes, they like to attend church. The events are usually fall festivals, but there is indeed a lot of singing and praising. I am personally indifferent towards Halloween and my faith is strong enough to not entertain anything that may seem unscrupulous. It is cool to see different costumes that are thrilling and creative and my love for candy will never die. However, I feel as though celebrating “darkness” is a bit extreme.
– De’Anthony Taylor is a junior mass communication major from Shreveport, La.