During a time between autumn and winter, harvest and disposal, life and death, we celebrate Halloween with costumes and superstitions. Halloween is one of the oldest holidays celebrated today with its origins in the 2,000 year old Celtic tradition of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). Samhain was a celebration held on the night before their new year, November 1, characterized with bonfires, costumes, and fortune-telling. As the Celts became more influenced by Christian mores after being conquered by the Roman Empire and with the influence of Pope Boniface and Pope Gregory III, Halloween came to be celebrated on the eve of All Saints Day or All-Hallowmas, incorporating many of the traditions of Samhain and two Roman Empire traditions of Feralia – a Roman Empire custom marking the passing of the dead, and a celebration honoring Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruits and trees whose symbol is an apple. So, that’s where the tradition of “bobbing for apples” was derived.
Over time, Halloween became a more secular and community-based observance. With the first immigrants to America, Halloween was celebrated primarily in southern states, of which Maryland is included, due to the strict Protestant principles in colonial New England. However, as the Irish fled from the great potato famine of 1846, Halloween became more popular blending Irish and English customs with Native American influences. Overtime, the ritual of Halloween dropped most of its religious and superstitious traits, and it became a national holiday in the early 20th century in America.
Today, the American tradition of “trick-or-treating” and dressing in costumes have become a way of life dating back to the holiday’s Celtic, Irish and English origins. While the holiday has been plagued with vandalism and negative connotations over the years, Halloween relied on the good will of spirits traditionally; now it relies on the “good-will” of parents and community leaders for children to have fun. So as the days get shorter, the weather grows chilly and winter begins, people around the world celebrate with parties, costumes, and sweet treats!