The History of Halloween

imagesAs we approach Halloween, I wonder, where did it come from? How did Halloween start? Why do people give away candy? What’s with the costumes? Pumpkins? Explain. So, as a public service, I delved into the history of the holiday we now know as Halloween and present my findings.

Halloween began in the 14th century during the Bubonic plague epidemic. They had a lot of dead people and skeletons lying around so they figured, why not have a party? The living people dressed up like their departed friends and family which is why to this day the most popular costumes are ghosts, skeletons, and zombies. The popular attraction of haunted houses also goes back to this period when every house on the block was scarier than the next.

The witch costume was popular in Salem, Massachusetts around 1690 but in 1692 the city started their famous witch trials and if you went out on Halloween dressed as a witch you would most likely have been burned at the stake.

The tradition of giving candy didn’t begin until the 1800’s when dentistry started to become popular. To give their business a boost, dentists began the practice of giving out sugary candy on Halloween and encouraged their neighbors to do the same. Pretty soon, troops of costumed children would go door to door for candy and then they would go to the dentist to have their cavities filled.

As far as the pumpkins go, they have a story all their own. Around this time of year in the late 1800’s, one of the most loved entertainers of the day passed into the great beyond.

John Gourd, better known by his Irish stage name, Jack O’Lantern, was a stand up comic in the Catskills in the late 1800’s and was quite popular. He played at picnics, socials, and barn raisings and regaled the crowd with funny stories and a little tap dancing. He got rave reviews including: “What a cut-up.” “He seemed to glow from the inside.” “I was mesmerized by his triangle eyes.” “He’s certainly carved out a niche for himself.”

After his death due to a nasty fall off of the porch, people honored him by carving his effigy into pumpkins every year about this time.

Another popular Halloween activity involves a tub full of water and some apples. During this game, a person has to lean over a bucket and try to catch an apple with his teeth, without using his hands, or drowning. It’s an impossible task called bobbing for apples. It’s not done much any more. having been replaced by another impossible task, signing up for Obamacare.


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