It’s almost time for costumes and candy.
But the origins of Halloween — and its unusual traditions — are unknown to many.
“I have always wondered why we do odd things like trick-or-treating and dressing up as crazy characters,” says Makenzie Neath, a general studies student. “I think it would be interesting to learn more about where these traditions came from.”
Halloween likely evolved from the ancient Celtic festival, Samhain.
Celts celebrated their new year on November 1. On the night before their new year, the line that cut paths between life and death were erased, allowing spirits to come back to the living world.
People wore costumes to disguise themselves from the dead, and bonfires were lit to ward off the spirits that were in their presence.
Today, many students wear Halloween costumes as a form of expression.
“People dress up because it’s fun. They can be someone else and themselves at the same time without much effort,” says Andrew Hill, a mass communication student. “It allows me to show my creativity in a different way than normal.”
Present-day trick-or-treating doesn’t differ all that much from the past.
Celtic lore says November 2 was considered All Souls Day, when people honored the dead.
Poor individuals would visit their rich neighbors in hopes of receiving “soul cakes” — treats made up of coins or food. In return, the beggars would pray for the neighbor’s deceased relatives.
Instead of praying for the dead, a poor person would offer some kind of performance — a “trick” — to earn the treat.
As the spiritual aspects of the holiday have faded away, trick-or-treating continues on and has become a fun activity for young people.
“Trick-or-treating is something I always loved to do as a kid, but it never dawned on me how weird it is that we just go up to random houses and ask for candy,” Neath says. “I still do like to go trick-or-treating regardless of the fact that I am in college.”
Despite an early history filled with ritualistic acts, Halloween is now a night for fun.
“Halloween is my favorite time of year,” Neath says. “I love being able to channel my inner creep and take on a costume that allows me to get away from myself.
“I am sure there are many explanations for why this holiday came about, but regardless of how it formed, I am just happy it did.”