A Haunting Past


Children bobbing for apples at Audley End

Photo Courtesy of https://heritagecalling.com/apple-bobbing-boys/.

By Paige Mathieu

Candy, apples, and ghosts all have one event in common: Halloween.  Today Halloween is seen as a fun time for children to go from door to door collecting candy.  Two thousand years ago however, the traditions had a very different meaning than they do today.

People in Samhain, known as Celts, began their new year on November 1st.  The day before was said to be a time when dead ancestors would come out and destroy farmers crops.  To prevent these ghosts from haunting and ruining their fields, the Celts would wear disguises, build a bonfire, and make sacrifices of their crop and other animals to the spirits.  

Later, the Roman Empire conquered the Celts. The Romans celebrated their dead ancestors with their traditions and combined them into the beliefs of the Celts, which played into the Halloween traditions seen today.  One of the main traditions was that a day during October was set aside to celebrate the goddess of fruit, Pomona.  She was said to have the symbol of an apple.  Because of this celebration, people today in America celebrate Halloween by bobbing for apples.

In New England, Halloween became known as a time to have parties. These parties were supposed to be for the whole community to enjoy in a public space.  As these parties became larger, people ended up having parties in their own homes.  The goal was for it to be a fun time for children in a safe environment.

Christianity also has an Halloween of their own, called All Saints Day.  On November second, people remember their loved ones, listen to music, have parties, or dress up like an angel or other religiously based costumes.  Many of their traditions are said to have been derived from the Celts traditions as well.

Later in the nineteenth century, people began going from house to house asking for food. Today, many people see Halloween or All Saint’s Day, as a time to dress up, have parties, and trick-or-treat.  So next time someone is walking around their neighborhood or having a party, they can remember that at one point in time, our fun and games were actually apart of rituals to scare away the dead.

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