One Busy Guy presents a history of ...
This holiday might better be described as Celtic New Year. The Celts, living throughout Europe and Ireland some 2000 years ago, celebrated their New year on November 1st. These ancient people believed that boundaries between the living and the dead became blurred on New Years Eve... October 31st. Celtic priests or 'Druids' made predictions about the future at this time. Huge bonfires were lit where believers would sacrifice crops or animals to the Celtic deities. The Druid priests wore costumes, often of animal heads and skins, while making their various predictions. Each attendee would return home with a flame lit from the larger fire to kindle a blaze in their own hearth believing it would offer some supernatural protection over the coming winter.
These lands were eventually conquered by the Roman Empire (43 AD) and the holiday became entwined with several Roman traditions. Feralia, falling in late October, was a traditional day for commemorating the dead. Also at this time was celebration honoring the goddess of fruits and trees. 'Pomona' was symbolized by the apple and most likely accounts for the present day tradition of bobbing for apples.
When Christianity came along some time in the 7th Century, Pope Boniface IV had signified November first as 'All Saints Day' and also November 2nd as 'All Souls' Day. Most likely this was designed to replace pagan beliefs with officially sanctioned holidays.
The practice of 'trick or treating' is a remnant of early British invention. The poor traditionally begged along parade routes and the wealthier citizens would provide them with 'soul cakes' in exchange for prayers over the souls of loved ones. Children slowly began visiting the homes of friends to share in the holiday. The ritual of costumes was an excellent disguise and the perfect way to go unrecognized by some nefarious spiritual presence.
Early American observances began as plays and parties where stories of ghosts and mystic properties of the dead were shared. Nowadays Americans spend more than 2 million annually to celebrate a holiday with far less religious overtones making it a very lucrative commercial event. We have the entire lexicon of Universal Pictures undead creatures and an enormous catalog of movie monsters to dread.
Personally, I dread Halloween!
That's the story,