The haunting history of Halloween

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Halloween dates back to an ancient Celtic pagan ceremony known as Samhain, which was held on Oct. 31, their New Year’s Eve. It marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter, a season of cold and darkness that became synonymous with death.The Celts celebrated Samhain because of their belief that ghosts returned to the Earth on that night. During the ceremony, Druids would dress in costumes, usually made from animal skins, and gather in large groups to sacrifice animals to their deities. The ceremonies were meant to help the Celts divine the future, and to bring comfort to them during the long winter.During the Dark Ages, Christianity began to spread to Celtic lands, and in the 8th century Pope Boniface IV sought to replace the ceremony with a more Catholic friendly version. Nov. 1 became All Saint’s Day, in which the souls of Catholic patron saints were celebrated instead of Celtic deities.The old English word for All Saint’s Day is Alholowmesse (All’s Holy Mass), and the celebration the night before was now named All-hallows Eve, which eventually evolved into Halloween after centuries of dialectical change.The custom of trick-or-treating comes from parades that were held on All Saint’s Day. People would be given a pastry called a “soul cake” in exchange for praying for the souls of the giver’s dead relatives. Eventually the custom had children going from house to house in their neighborhood to collect the cakes, along with ale, food and money.Senior Krischele Jenkins enjoys the holiday because of her religious background.”I love it, it’s one of my favorite holidays,” said Jenkins. “For me, because my religion celebrates it as All Saint’s Day, and we celebrate to honor the saints that died throughout the years.”And also, because autumn is my favorite season,” she said.Centuries later, when immigrants moved to the United States, they brought their Halloween customs with them. However, because of America’s Puritanical history, the holiday was not well received at first.In the late 19th century, however, there was a push in the United States to make the holiday more of a community get-together. The idea of centering the day on children became popular, with parties being held that focused on games and costumes while taking the supernatural elements out of it.Senior Traci Hudson said that she never really got into the holiday.”I like giving out the candy, but I don’t like dressing up,” said Hudson. “I don’t like going up to strangers houses and asking for candy.”Junior Kelli Ellsworth also didn’t celebrate the holiday in the traditional way, but instead found other activities to do on Halloween.”We never really celebrated it,” said Ellsworth. “We still did the candy and costume thing, but mostly we just hung out with friends at their houses.”People introduced trick-or-treating back into the holiday between 1920 and 1950, and it soon took its modern incarnation of children going from door to door to collect candy. Society also brought the idea of dressing up in ghoulish costumes during the holiday. With sales of candy, costumes and other related item, Americans spend about $6.9 billion annually on Halloween, making it the second most commercially productive holiday behind Christmas.Terry Rosati, RTV professor and 90.5 station manager, said she enjoys the season because of the opportunity for children to have fun.”I think it’s a good time for you people to go out and be something different, and have some fun,” said Rosati.Rosati remembered her childhood of trick-or-treating in Minnesota, and how she didn’t stay confined to just her block.”I’d go into other neighborhoods just so I could get more candy,” said Rosati. “And I ate it all, too!”Rosati also said that when she was a child, Halloween was more innocent and children did not have to worry about the things they have to now.”We didn’t have to worry about pins and razor blades in the candy,” said Rosati. “Now they have x-ray machines at the hospital.”Still, Rosati said she missed the fun of trick-or-treating during Halloween.”I wish I could still go,” said Rosati.