Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Story Behind Halloween in the U.S.

By Naimeesha Murthy
World Education Services

Halloween is a unique holiday. People dress up in costumes, eat a lot of candy, enjoy pumpkin carving, and share scary stories. For some international students, this holiday may seem downright bizarre.

So, here’s a little history behind this holiday that is much loved by Americans.

The origin of Halloween dates back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced: “sow-in,” meaning "summer's end"). The Celts, who lived about 2,000 years ago in what is now Ireland, celebrated the New Year on Nov. 1.

The Celts believed that on the night before the New Year, the border between the worlds of the living and the dead blurred. On the night of Oct. 31, when they celebrated Samhain, it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth.

The custom of dressing in costume for Halloween has both European and Celtic roots. Hundreds of years ago, Winter was uncertain, severe, and frightening. Food supplies often ran low, and for people who were afraid of the dark, the shorter days meant constant worry. On Halloween, when ghosts were thought to return to earth, people believed that they would encounter them if they left their homes. To avoid being recognized by ghosts, people wore masks after dark so the ghosts would mistake them for fellow spirits.

Also, people placed bowls of food outside their homes to pacify the ghosts and prevent them from entering.

Modern Halloween in the U.S.

Halloween came to the United States when European immigrants brought their varied Halloween customs with them. In the second half of the 19th century, America was flooded with new immigrants. By combining Irish and English traditions, Americans began their "trick-or-treat" tradition. In the late 1800s, the holiday became more centered on community and, in the 1920s and 1930s, Halloween became "a secular, community-centered holiday.”

This year, the National Retail Foundation expects customers to spend $6.9 billion on costumes, decorations, party supplies, and candy for Halloween.

Here are the top 10 costumes trending nationally:

1. Harley Quinn
2. Star Wars
3. Super Hero
4. Pirate
5. Batman
6. Minnie Mouse
7. Witch
8. Minions
9. Joker

10. Wonder Woman and more 

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