Halloween, as most of us know, is celebrated on October 31 every year. It’s a time of costume parties, trick-or-treating and a whole lot of fun. But how and where did this wonderful festival originate? Is it an American tradition? Did it come from elsewhere? Let’s take a closer look.
To know more about Halloween’s origins, we have to go back 2000 years to the Celtic festival of Samhain, which was celebrated from sunset on October 31 to sunset on November 1. The festival marked the end of the summer and harvest and the start of the much-feared dark, cold winter. Celts believed that ghosts returned to the world on the last night of the year (October 31). While these spirits caused trouble, they also made it easier for the Druids (Celtic priests) to foresee the future. In a time when people were at the mercy of nature’s whims, knowing what was in store offered comfort and helped prepare for the coming winter. Druids would build massive sacred bonfires, where people burned animals and crops as sacrifices to appease the Celtic deities. To celebrate, Celts wore costumes, usually comprising of animal skins and heads and tried to tell each other’s fortunes. After the festivities were over, they would once again light hearth fires from the previous evening’s bonfire, which they believed would guard them during the winter.
Halloween in America
The initial American versions of the festival combined the customs and beliefs of Native Americans and European ethnic groups. The celebrations marked the harvest and people would tell fortunes, dance, sing and share stories of the dead. By the mid-19th century, autumn festivities were a regular thing but Halloween in the modern sense was not yet born. It was the second half of the century when immigrants, especially the Irish, came into the country that Halloween, as we know it today, began to take shape. Much like the Irish and English versions, people dressed up in costumes and went from house to house asking for money or food, a tradition that became the modern-day trick-or-treating. By the beginning of the 20th-century, Halloween had shed its religious and superstitious past and was now a family festival.
Museum Replicas has a wonderful range of men, women, and children’s costumes, which are uniquely perfect for this year’s Halloween ensemble. Check out the pirate, fantasy and steampunk sections for some exciting ideas and let us know what you think.