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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    The History of Halloween

    While you were at Party City this year searching for the best Halloween costume you could find, did you ever stop to think where Halloween originated and why you’re shelling out $50 for a Borat mankini?

    Halloween originated from the ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain. According to the History Channel, the festival of Samhain, a celebration of the end of the harvest season, was used by the ancient pagans to prepare for winter. The pagans believed that on Oct. 31, the boundaries between the living and the dead overlapped and the dead came back to life to cause chaos.

    When European immigrants migrated to America, they brought their Halloween customs with them, creating the American version of Halloween. Some of the first celebrations were “play parties,” which were public events celebrating the harvest, where neighbors shared stories of the dead. By the mid-nineteenth century, autumn celebrations were popular, but Halloween wasn’t celebrated everywhere.

    During the second half of the nineteenth century, millions of Irish immigrants came to America, helping spread the celebration of Halloween. Americans began to dress up in costumes and go from house to house asking for food or money, which is known today as “trick-or-treating.” Halloween became a holiday with an emphasis on community rather than on ghosts, pranks, and witchcraft.

    Halloween parties with games, food, and costumes were the most common way to celebrate. Newspapers and community leaders encouraged people to eliminate frightening elements from their Halloween celebrations and because of that, Halloween became less superstitious by the start of the twentieth century.

    Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, parades and parties were the main features of Halloween entertainment. Between 1920 and 1950, the practice of trick-or-treating became popular again since it was an inexpensive way for a community to come together and celebrate Halloween.

    Each year, Americans spend about $6.9 billion on Halloween, making it the second largest commercial holiday in the country. Since its arrival in America, Halloween has become a new American tradition and it continues to grow.

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