Approximately one fourth of all the candy sold each year in the United States is purchased for Halloween. How did this tradition begin? It started long before people knew what candy was!
Halloween, as we know it today isn’t very different from the way it came to us, from a mix of ancient Celtic practices in Ireland, Catholic and Roman religious rituals, and European folk traditions in France.
Ancient Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area now known as Ireland, United Kingdom, and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1 which was called Samhain. This was the end of summer and the harvest. It was the beginning of the long, cold, dark winter which was associated with death. On the evening before Samhain, the Celts believed that the spirits of the dead could cross over into the world of the living. They believed that the dead could return to earth. As a result, people built bonfires and dressed in costumes to keep the feared dead away. Families who wanted to be close to dead relatives, or the friendly spirits, would leave treats on their doorsteps for them.
In A.D. 43 the Romans had conquered the Celts and combined two festivals with Samhain. The first was Feralia, a day in late October set aside to honor the dead. The second was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple, which may be where the tradition of bobbing for apples began.
Along with the Roman influence, came the spread of Christianity through Celtic lands. Pope Boniface IV, in the seventh century, proclaimed November 1 to be All Saints Day in remembrance of saints and martyrs. This celebration was called “All-Hallows” or “All-Hallowmas” which eventually took the name All Hallows Eve. By 1000 A.D. November 2 became All Souls Day to honor the dead. All of these celebrations combined were called Hallowmas. The beliefs and traditions that were spread and carried through the centuries stayed about the same with bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes. Hallowmas eventually became Halloween.
The tradition of “trick-or-treat” probably came from the All Soul’s Day parades in England where the poor would beg for food and families gave them “soul cakes” in return for promises that they would pray for dead family members.
Modern Halloween traditions include parades, costumes, trick-or-treat, bonfires, scary stories, bobbing for apples, and parties with games and treats such as candy, cookies and cupcakes.
Troy’s Halloween parade last Saturday evening consisted of creatively decorated floats, candy, music, all kinds of vehicles, and even four-legged paraders, as businesses and community folk went all out in costumes for a fun evening.
This year, after the parade, Fellowship Bible Church sponsored “Trunk or Treat” in the Dollar General Store parking lot. Family church members chose a “theme” and decorated the trunks of their vehicles. Dressed in costumes to go with their themes, families handed out treats. A variety from the Peanuts gang to a ferocious looking shark greeted the crowds leaving the parade. Tables were set up offering hot dogs and hot chocolate to sustain trick or treaters through their house to house jaunts. Today’s Halloween is not so very different from the soul cakes of England.