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Origin of Halloween in the United States

Updated: Nov 5, 2022

By Phyllis S.

Similar to Finland, Halloween in America evolved from Samhain, a celebration marking the end of summer and the harvest. The celebration took place on the evening of October 31, which was New Year’s Eve to the Celts. It was believed the boundaries between the living and dead were more fluid on Samhain, and the ghosts of the dead came to visit their descendants. It was also believed that the Druids, the Celtic priests, were better able to envision the future on Samhain.

When the Romans defeated the Celts (in about 43 AD) and claimed their lands, two Roman festivals were combined with Samrain: Feralia, which honored the Roman dead, and a celebration for Pomona, the goddess of trees and fruit, especially the apple, which is probably how apples became an important part of Halloween. Later (around 609 AD) the festival of All Martyr’s Day was established by the Roman Catholic Church; which was later expanded to include Saints. All Saint’s Day was known in old English as All-Hallows, the evening before (October 31, the date of the original celebration of Samhain) was All-Hallows Eve, which eventually evolved into Halloween. In addition, around 1000 AD, November 2 became All Souls Day, a day to honor all of the dead, celebrated with bonfires, parades, and costumes.

During the development of the colonies in what was to become the United States, many different people’s immigrated bringing their own interpretations of Halloween with them. In addition, the Native Americans contributed their celebrations, which also started as parties to celebrate the harvest, although it also included sharing stories about the dead, ghost stories, and mischief like trick or treating. It wasn’t until the late 1800’s, however, that Halloween became celebrated throughout the country. Read Marcy’s article to find out how Halloween is celebrated today.

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