I'm a freelance writer and primary school teacher living in SE Melbourne. I love finding adventures for myself, my husband and our four kids to enjoy. Come along! Heart my articles, subscribe to the fun, follow along on www.facebook.com/WNMelbourne
How did Halloween begin?
As the seasons changed from Summer to Autumn, the days grow shorter and nights grow longer. The Celtic people of Europe and Britain, pagan Druids whose major celebrations were marked by the seasons, made preparations to ensure winter survival by harvesting the crops and culling the herds; slaughtering animals that wouldn't make it. The imagery of death, symbolised by skeletons, skulls, and the colour black, remains prominent in today's Halloween celebrations.
The name "Halloween" comes from the All Saints Day celebration of the early Christian church, a day set aside for the solemn remembrance of the martyrs. All Hallows Eve, the evening before All Saints Day, began the time of remembrance. "All Hallows Eve" was eventually contracted to "Hallow-e'en," which became "Halloween."
As Christianity moved through Europe it collided with pagan holidays and festivals already traditionally celebrated. To deal with the problem, the organized church would commonly move a distinctively Christian holiday to a spot on the calendar that would directly challenge a pagan holiday. The intent was to counter pagan influences, and provide a Christian alternative. That's what happened to All Saints Eve; it was the original Halloween alternative.
Halloween didn't become an American holiday until the immigration of the working classes from the British Isles in the late nineteenth century. While early immigrants may have believed the superstitious traditions, it was the mischievous aspects of the holiday that attracted American young people. Younger generations borrowed or adapted many customs without reference to their pagan origins.
While Halloween cannot technically be called "American", the retail industry around the world certainly has the United States of America to thank for the influence of modern Halloween celebrations.
Haunted attractions in the United States bring in an estimate $300–500 million each year, and draw some 400,000 customers (and that was back in 2005). According to Halloween Online Magazine, Halloween now ranks second only to Christmas in annual holiday spending in the USA, generating $2.4 billion a year. This entire article is devoted to teaching Americans how to budget for Halloween: "First, start planning and saving for Halloween now! Tuck away every spare dollar you can through out the year for candy, costumes and decorations..."
Australian retailers are strongly aware of its commercial benefit; Woolworths and Coles began selling orange "Jack-O-Lantern" pumpkins in 2010. Aldi, Target, Kmart, Big W, and most cheap and cheerful "dollar shops" are selling costumes of all varieties, decorations, and even "trick-or-treat" bags and buckets to collect candy in.
Like all things "commercialised", we have a choice: To dive in and indulge, boycott and be annoyed, or find a happy medium of allowing the kids some dress-up fun, with homemade costumes and an extra lolly or two.
Stay safe this Halloween, however you choose to "celebrate".