Halloween is one of the most popular holidays worldwide, but where exactly does it come from and how did it become so incredibly famous?
There’s a world-famous celebration happening on the 31st of October every year known as ‘Halloween’, previously called ‘Allhalloween’ or ‘All Hallows’ Eve’. The reason for such a name is that the celebrations take place on the evening before the Christian feast All Hallows’ Day (po polsku: Dzień Wszystkich Świętych). Over time ‘All Hallows’ Eve’ evolved into what everyone is familiar with nowadays – ‘Halloween’.
Halloween celebrations date back to medieval times and have Celtic origins. The Celtic feast to mark the end of summer celebrated on the night of the 31st of October in Ireland and Scotland was named Samhein, which literally means ‘first day of winter’ in Old Irish. It was believed that on that night there was no borders between our world and the spirit world, making it easier for ghosts to cross over into the living world. People would gather and make bonfires as these were supposed to attract the good ghosts and scare the bad ghosts away. The main belief was focused on the fact that on that night Samhain, who was the god of death, forces the souls of people who passed away in the previous year to come to the living world to atone for their sins. Animals, and sometimes people, were often sacrificed during the celebrations in order to please Samhain and make him forgive the souls for what they did when they were alive. Participants of the described celebrations would always wear big black costumes resembling demons.
In the 9th century Halloween celebrations started gradually disappearing due to the increasing influence of Christianity on the world. However, Halloween remained a tradition among Irish people who spread it all over America due to their mass immigration in the 19th century. This way Halloween became a major holiday in America. In Anoka, Minnesota on the 31st of October 1920 the first ever Halloween parade took place – it consisted of people dressed up in costumes of monsters, demons, vampires, ghosts as well as some famous people. This parade became a tradition and in 1937 Anoka, Minnesota was announced to be the world’s capital city of Halloween. In the second half of the 20th century Halloween started being celebrated in Western Europe, whereas after the fall of the Iron Curtain it also became well-known in Central and Eastern Europe.
Nowadays, Halloween is widely celebrated all over the world, especially in America and Western Europe. The most popular ways to enjoy the occasion are kid-orientated, such as trick-or-treating (going from house to house asking for sweets), putting pumpkins around your house and decorating the whole house in black and orange (Halloween’s traditional colours), disguising (dressing up as supernatural figures or even popular characters and celebrities), visiting ‘scary farms’ or ‘haunted houses’ (huge places arranged to look like a horror film that visitors go through and get jump-scared).
Poland is still one of the only European countries where Halloween is not celebrated by the majority of the population. It’s mainly due to the fact that the holiday reached Poland not that long ago, so it hasn’t had time to spread, although it is becoming more and more popular every year. In Poland the All Hallows’ Day is still the one that is more widely celebrated as its tradition is longer and it’s a Christian holiday.