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Halloween History

Yes kids, you get to have Halloween this year! The last two Octobers have been rough on the northeast. Two years ago we had a huge snow storm and last year we were hit by Superstorm Sandy. In both cases many towns had to cancel Halloween, at least the Trick-or-Treating part of Halloween. This year Mother Nature does not appear to be dropping any major storms on us so all systems are go for Thursday. So where exactly did Halloween come from anyway?

Halloween traces its history back over 2000 years ago to an ancient Celtic festival called Samhain. The Celts believed that on October 31st the ghosts of the dead returned to earth, causing trouble, and damaging crops. Druids, the Celtic priests, would build giant bonfires where people would burn crops and animals to sacrifice to their deities. At these bonfires the Celts would often dress in costumes, usually as animals. Over time the Romans came in and took over the Celtic lands and combined Samhain with their own fall festivals. Eventually the Roman Catholic Church established All Saints Day, or All-hallows, on November 1st. In turn October 31st was called All-hallows Eve and eventually Halloween.

When immigrants came to America they brought their festivals with them. Native Americans and early settlers would often celebrate autumn festivals but it wasn’t until the second half of the 19th century that the Halloween we are more familiar with took off in America. “Trick-or-treating” as we know it got its start from Americans blending Irish and English traditions and going house top house asking for food or money while dressed in costume. By the end of the 19th century the holiday began to take on a community and neighborhood feel with less religious overtones.

In between there were many traditions including leaving food outside your door for ghosts to be appeased and not go into the house. Another popular Halloween superstition that has since faded only to history books is that involving  young women identifying their future husbands. Some involved a matchmaking cook placing a ring into mashed potatoes and the lucky girl that found it would find true love by next Halloween. Others had women throwing apple peels over their shoulders in hopes the peels will land in a suitors initials.

Many of the traditions have changed over time but you are certain to see plenty of animal costumes making there way around this Halloween.

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