Halloween, from Ireland to the World

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From camp fires to cavities, Halloween is one of the world’s oldest holidays; it is still celebrated today in a number of countries around the globe. It is believed to have originated in Ireland with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. Since then it has changed to an international day of costumes, treats and parties.halloween-pumpkin-lantern-trick-or-treat

2,000 years ago in what is now Ireland, long before people were wearing plastic Dracula capes and skimpy nurse outfits, The Celts were wearing costumes from animal heads and skin (there’s an idea for a Halloween costume). They believed on the 31st of October, during Samhain, the ghost of the dead would return to earth. To protect themselves they would wear these costumes and light bonfires.

With the spread of Christianity in Celtic lands, the Catholic Church changed Samhain to All Saints Day or All-Hallows, which became Halloween.During the All Saints Day Parade in England, poor people would beg for food, and that become “trick or treating.” It’s not that surprising,as if you think about it, “trick or treating” is basically children asking strangers for food.

Halloween spread to the USA through emigrants. By the end of the 19th century, Americans took up Irish and English traditions. One of these traditions was young woman doing tricks with apple peals and yarn to find the name of their future husbands. This tradition came from Ireland, when matchmaker cooks would put a ring in a woman’s mashed potatoes in hope that with luck, they’ll be married by next Halloween.

By the 1930’s Halloween spread throughout the USA, and became the day when the most sweets are sold. With the influence of the American media, Halloween continued to spread to countries it wasn’t previously celebrated in, such as France, Norway, Sweden, Japan and China.halloween nyc

Some people have seen this as cultural imposition from the USA and it’s true that even in Ireland, its birthplace, Halloween has become Americanised. But like a word in Chinese whispers, traditions change. If people prefer it then I don’t see how it’s a bad thing. Anyway, Halloween isn’t from America, but from a small country terrified of ghosts, and is now a night of fun–the night that millions of children (and some adults) dream about.

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