Going a-soulin’


Old School Halloween Costumes were terrifying

Sara McRoberts, Reporter

Since we were young, Halloween has been a holiday awaited with anticipation. In classrooms, parties were held where candy was distributed, costumes decorated each child, and Charlie Brown and the Great Pumpkin filled the background with noise.

We would go door-to-door in our neighborhoods in search of delicious treats to fill our candy buckets.

As time lapsed, Halloween became synonymous with themed parties and we would celebrate all weekend.

But, do we know where these traditions originated? Halloween is a holiday so ingrained in our lives it could make us wonder how it began.

According to an article from the History Channel’s website, Halloween was thought to have begun as the Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The festival goers would light bonfires and wear costumes in order to prevent roaming ghosts from causing them harm and wreaking havoc on their communities.

Druids, Celtic priests, would build said bonfires where animals and crops would be burned, representing sacrifices to the spirits in order to appease them so they would not cause trouble in the following months. They would also where costumes, generally made of animal skins.

The Celts’ New Year was Nov. 1 and they believed the night before, the line between the living and the dead was easily crossed and that spirits would return to earth.

They believed that on the Oct. 31, the ghosts would walk among the living. Because of this, the people would not leave their houses and if they did, they would wear masks in order to confuse the spirits and the ghouls would mistake them for a fellow ghost.

To keep the ghosts from entering a home, the residents would leave food outside to keep the spirits happy and prevent them from getting inside.

In the ninth century, Christianity gained steam and the church created All Soul’s Day to honor the dead as a church-sanctioned holiday. It was also referred to as All-hallows. Therefore, the night before was called All-hallow’s eve.
On All Soul’s Day, poor families would beg their neighbors for food or money. The neighbors would oblige only if the poor would take pastries called “soul cakes” and pray for the families passed relatives. Going a-soulin’ became the term for this tradition.

When pilgrams migrated to America, they brought these traditions with them. Intertwined with Native American traditions, an Americanized version of Halloween was born.

The second half of the 19th century brought Irish folk, fleeing the potato famine, to America. This popularized Halloween throughout the country. Irish traditions mixed with American ones, resulting in citizens going to houses in their neighborhood, asking their neighbors for food and money in order to celebrate this time of year.

Finally, by the 1950’s, Halloween changed into a children’s holiday. Today, Americans spend billions of dollars on Halloween which make it the second biggest holiday celebrated in this country.

Halloween seems like a simple time of year but its origins are anything but. Remember that when you take yourself or someone else trick-or-treating, you’re actually going a-soulin’ to keep the ghosts at bay.

Facebook Comments Box