BY: JESSICA SVENNINGSON
Halloween is for many people their favourite holiday, especially if you are an American. However, despite Mr. Trump already winning this year’s best costume competition, competing as an impression of a presidential candidate, let’s look at the history of Halloween and some of the best (and worst) costumes throughout history.
The Halloween as we know it today is a relatively new manifestation of the once religious holiday, however the history of the day goes back centuries and is a manifestation of Pagan, Celtic, Gaelic, Roman and old Catholic traditions.
THE IRON AGE
Dating back to between 800-600 B.C.E., it was a time when French Gauls and Celtics ruled. Historically, October 31st was referred to as the holiday of Samhain, meaning “summer’s end”, and was the end of the Celtic calendar, marking the end of summertime and the beginning of winter.
During this period when the natural world and harvest died, and winter’s sleep began, the Celtics believed the veil between the world of the living and the world of the dead was the thinnest. Some believed this was the time when spirits would drift through from the afterlife to the land of the living. To protect themselves from evil spirits, the Celts would dress themselves in all manner of feathers, rags, and earthly materials to disguise themselves, giving heritage to all those in costume today.
THE ROMAN ERA
As the Roman’s began to invade Gaul and Britain in the first century B.C.E. their own holidays of harvest, called Pomona celebrated on November 1st, and later their celebrations of the dead, named Parentalia and Feralia and historically held in the month of February, were incorporated into the holiday. Today in the Roman Catholic church November 1st is call to All Saints Day, All Hallows, or Hallowmas, and is a day to honor the saints of the Christian tradition.
ARRIVAL OF CHRISTIANITY
Prior to the arrival of Halloween to North America, Halloween developed within the churches of Europe right up to the 18th century. It was a time to ward off spirits and pay homage to the dead. The Spanish would visit graveyards and graves with holy water or milk, which evolved into a time to honour the dead in Mexico with Dia de los Muertos. The English believed fire warded off evil and would burn fires in graveyards and burn many candles for protection, where as the French would direct their prayers that day specifically to the recently past.
The Victorian era gave rise to the participation of children, and around this time period the religious and folk lore roots were downplayed in place of new traditions of community organized parades and haunted houses – another indication of the Victorians fascination with death. It is believed that the Irish were the first to begin the tradition of trick-or-treating, and in the 1940s it became popular in North America to over look the normally disliked behaviour of begging in order for children of the neighbourhood to go around collecting candy. Children would go door-to-door performing mimes, a song, or some form of talent in exchange for candy, however if children did not have a talent they would threaten to perform a trick on the house instead of they did not receive candy.
With the high influx of Irish immigrants during the mid-1800s the traditions of Celtic Sanhain spread throughout North America under the new name of All Hallows Eve, and the rest of North America enthusiastically accepted Halloween, officially recognizing it as a holiday in 1911. As films and the cult of Hollywood grew in popularity and volume at the beginning of the 20th century, terrifying monsters like the Wolf-Man, Count Dracula, ghosts, witches, and all manner of terrifying monsters gave rise to American’s dressing in scary costumes. However, it was not until the 1930s when enterprising businesses realized the market for costumes. This meant anything made prior was home made. Mother’s would make paper-mâché masks for their children, and designs for Halloween costumes were printed in woman’s magazines for several decades. It often lead to such terrifying costumes such as these.
As time has moved on, costumes became more varied and less frightening, however the trend of dressing up as film or pop culture references has not faded in the past 100 years. This year’s projected most popular costumes are likely to be: superheroes, princesses, Pokemon, present presidential candidates, and Game of Thrones characters to name a few.
Despite the popularity of American Halloween celebrations, there are many other ways Halloween is celebrated globally.
FUNNY HALLOWEEN TRADITIONS AROUND THE WORLD:
Germans believe to protect themselves from evil spirits they hide all the knives around their home so no evil spirits can do them harm.
The French Catholic Church refused to acknowledge the holiday because of it’s Pagan roots until the mid-1990s when the act of "La Fete D'Halloween” was approved. Children do not go house-to-house but instead store-to-store collecting candy, flowers and money to decorate tombstones.
The Swedish the holiday is referred to as "Alla Helgons Dag". Children get a full week off school to prepare and celebrate for the holiday, and adults have shorter days at work.
Mexicans light candles, parties, and picnics on the graves of their loved ones to make sure they
continue to be included in the family. They will dance in a circle holding hands, always leaving a spot free for those who have passed to be able to join in.
Belgium is the origin of the superstition that is unlucky to have a black cat cross your path, enter a home or travel by ship. Therefore, they must all stay inside all day, and light candles to honor the dead.
England is the source of the famous Jack-o-Lantern. There’s a myth of a man named Jack who was so evil he was rejected by heaven and hell and doomed to roam the earth for all eternity with nothing but a carved turnip for a head. Most North Americans know this story as the Disney version of Ichabold and Mr. Toad. Historically English children would carve out turnip heads as their candy buckets and would go trick-or-treating with it.
However you celebrate Halloween, whether for religious reasons or just for fun, stay safe this year and try not to hit that sugar crash too hard.