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Mom, how did Halloween start?

Fall is quickly approaching and bringing its signature cooler temperatures, changing leaves and of course Halloween. Halloween is a time for dress up and trick or treating, but don’t be surprised if your little one asks you how Halloween started. Be prepared by knowing a little bit about the holiday itself and the history of Halloween.

Little witch and dracula

Halloween is celebrated on October 31 in many countries around the world, but how did this holiday start? The history of Halloween isn’t completely clear and its exact origin isn’t known. Over the years, it has had many different influences, and scholars don’t always agree on how it started. Here is a little bit of Halloween history for you to share with your kids.

Celtic beginnings

Many scholars believe that the idea of Halloween can be traced back to the Celts and has some pagan roots dating as far back as 5 B.C. In the British Isles, the Celts celebrated Samhain on the last day of October. They believed that on this day the spirits of the dead came and visited Earth. It is thought that they would leave food as an offering to good spirits at their doors and would wear masks to ward off the evil spirits. Some believe that when the Roman Empire expanded into the British Isles, they adopted Samhain and added their own rituals to the mix as well.

The Catholic Church

During the 8th century the Roman Catholic Church attempted to get away from the pagan rituals of before, and Samhain was one of them. The church proclaimed November 1 to be All Saint’s Day, a new religious holiday celebrating all the saints who did not have their own holy day. All Saint’s Day was commonly referred to as “All Hallows’ Day” and therefore October 31 became “All Hallows’ Eve.” This is where we get the common name of Halloween.

Coming to America

Halloween coming to the U.S. is largely due to the massive amounts of immigration that occurred in the mid-1800s. In the 1840s, Irish immigration was at an all-time high and they brought with them the rituals of Samhain and All Hallows’ Eve. It wasn’t until the 1920s that the first official Halloween celebrations took place and the holiday took hold in the U.S.

Halloween today

Halloween today is full of parties, costumers, jack-o’-lanterns, and trick or treating. It’s a day for good, clean fun as a family. However, when discussing the history of Halloween with your children, it is a good idea to mention that not everyone may celebrate Halloween — and that’s OK. Some people don’t recognize the holiday due to religious reasons, and your kids shouldn’t be surprised if some of their friends don’t participate in the festivities.

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