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The Sentinel

The History of Halloween!


Halloween is a holiday that is loved by many Americans. From the alleyways of New York to the suburbs of California, you’ll see all types of decorations or themes that center around the holiday. However, despite this, not many people know the history of Halloween or about the cultures that influenced it. The holiday primarily has it’s root in an ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced Sah-win). Samhain was centered around celebrating the harvest at the end of the summer, along with lighting bonfires and wearing costumes to ward off ghosts or evil spirits. The subject of where trick or treating and its origins is debated. In Samhain, people would go doorstep to doorstep collecting, not candy, but feasts and materials for the bonfires and as offering to the spirits. As this progressed, one theory goes that due to this, people would dress up as spirits to receive such offerings.  One can also point fingers at German migrants and a German tradition called “Belsnickeling,” which was a Christmas tradition where children would dress in costume and see if their neighbors could guess what they were. If they couldn’t guess then they had to fork up the candy. Some say this holiday diffused into Halloween.

As seen, there are two very clear cultures participating in the formation of American Halloween, Celtic and Germanic. In recent times though, with the rise of the Mexican-American population, the tradition of “Dia de los muertos” has arrived. In English it is known as day of the dead. It is a holiday fused with indigenous and Creole traditions, creoles being Spaniards or Portuguese born on the land of the Spanish colonies. This tradition also focuses on honoring the dead, and some spend it through prayer or festivity. All of these holidays are interconnected through their time frame and their emphasis on respecting the dead and sharing meals or treats while doing it.

With all these traditions, it is also important to remember All Souls’ Day, which is on November 2. Although it is after Halloween, on the calendar it predates Halloween in America by a long shot, having been first formed in 993 AD. All Souls’ Day can be attributed to St. Odilo of Cluny who used the day to pray for the souls of deceased family members in purgatory. Now, we can see what makes Halloween and All Souls’ Day so special. Not only are they are very old traditions but they are inspired by fusions of different cultures and ideas, a testimony to the American spirit of unity through difference and tolerance. Hopefully you learned something new, and Happy Halloween!

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About the Contributor
Danyel Carrillo, World News Reporter
Danyel is a junior and this is his second year participating in the school paper. Despite being nervous, the ambition to write and his friends helped him join. Ready and prepared to write more, the newspaper helps as a good hobby for him.

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