It’s October once again, which can only mean one thing: Halloween. This is the time of year when people start to expect cooler weather, scary movies, haunted houses, and lots of sweets. In the modern day, Halloween consists of manufactured decorations, costumes, and candy, but was it always so recreational? I asked several middle school students about their thoughts on this question.
The Horizon Sun: Why do you think we celebrate Halloween?
Bella Rao, eighth grader: I think that we celebrate Halloween because it is a time to get with your friends, enjoy spooky stuff, and get candy for free. You earn the candy, because, I mean, I’m walking for three miles, so when I get home I’m going to want to sit down and have some candy.
Daniel Acuna, seventh grader: I think we celebrate it to admit what we fear, but also what we don’t.
Brooklyn Dosen, seventh grader: Halloween means being scared in life and living [it to the] fullest.
Hillary Glew, seventh grader: Well, I don’t think that it’s really about the candy. I think it has more to do with Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and culture.
There actually isn’t one definite answer to why we celebrate Halloween. Over the years, it has adapted into a custom that people have associated with social gatherings and fright. The holiday originated from the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. Samhain was celebrated on Oct. 31; on this day the Celts thought that it was possible to communicate with the dead. During Samhain they would dress up in costumes and create lanterns out of gourds (large fruits like pumpkins), a lot like we would do today.
So how did this ancient ceremony become our modern day Halloween? According to History, in the 1700s, Nov. 1 or All Saints’ Day was a day dedicated to all the saints of the church. This celebration integrated many Samhain practices, including lanterns and costumes. All Hallows Eve was the name for Oct. 31 (the night before All Saints’ Day), but eventually it was shortened to Halloween. This means that Christians accidentally started to use many of Samhain’s practices in their own holiday merely because of the timing of each holiday, but changed the meaning and name so that it would relate more to Christianity than Celtic polytheism. Over time, Halloween has become less and less about religious beliefs and more about entertainment. For example, according to Seattle Weekly, people in Western Europe have been using vegetables to make lanterns originally used to scare off wandering spirits, but today they are simply used as decor.
As cultures and civilizations have modernized, Halloween has evolved with it. Despite what middle schoolers may think, Halloween does not completely revolve around candy. It relates more to the traditions of Samhain and All Saint’s Day. While some activities like honoring the dead aren’t a huge part of Halloween anymore, many such as dressing up and receiving goodies are. From spiderwebs to bucketloads of candy, Halloween is definitely a sweet time of year.