In modern day America, on October 31st we celebrate what has long been referred to as Halloween…a “celebration” that dates back as far as 2,000 years ago to Celtic history.
Long, long ago in what is now Ireland, Scotland and the United Kingdom, there was a festival celebrated on November 1st called “Samhain” (pronounced: sow-in), where Celtic farmers honored the change in seasons, the summer’s end, and remembered the deceased. Because they believed that the deceased returned as ghosts on the night before Samhain, the people of the Celtic regions took part in traditions—or more like superstitions—that helped ward off the more troubled spirits during this time. Some of these traditions were to leave food and wine on the front porch, or wear masks when people left the house so that they’d be mistaken for fellow ghosts.
In the 8th century, because of how recognized the Samhain festival was throughout the region, the Christian church made the day an official holiday called “All Hallows’ Day,” therefore turning the night before into “All Hallows’ Eve.”
Now, one might wonder how the term Halloween itself came about (but you’ve probably seen the connection). When looking to Christian etymology, we can see Halloween, or its “Hallowe’en” origin, date back to approximately 1745. In Scottish, the word “eve” is even, and the dialect’s contraction turns even into e’en or een; and “hallowe’en” means “hallowed evening,” which gave us Halloween!
When the potato famine hit Ireland in the mid 19th century, the Irish fled to America for food and prosperity. With them they brought their traditions, like making jack-o-lanterns, “souling,” and “guising.” The modern-day Jack-o-lantern came about due to the combination of trying to ward off spirits and from children spooking people in graveyards.
Modern day trick-or-treating gets its infamy from “souling” and “guising.” Souling was where the needy would beg for pastries known as “soul cakes,” and in return they would pray for the giver’s deceased relatives. Guising was where young people would dress in costumes and sing, recite poetry or tell jokes in exchange for food, wine and or other offerings.
Fast forward 150+ years, and we have an American institution. To date, Halloween is a 6-billion-dollar industry where nearly 120 million children and adults in the United States participate in dressing up. And another fun fact: almost 12% of Americans dress up their pet on Halloween, too.
As you may well know, modern day festivities include parades, bobbing for apples, trick-or-treating, cooking, costumes, and best of all…pumpkin patch-going, picking and carving!
Speaking of pumpkins, they’re native to Central America, and now grow on six different continents in approximately 30 different varieties! The most common type of pumpkin used for carving is called the “Connecticut Field Pumpkin.”
Pumpkins are related to the gourd family, which includes: cucumbers, honeydew melon, cantaloupe, zucchini and watermelon…among others. They also are a very well-rounded source of nutrients containing: potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C, phytosterols, beta-carotenes, carotenoids, tryptophan, fiber, protein and more.
Whether you’re in it for the bag of candy or for the delicious foods that get prepared at the festivities, or for the extravagant costumes and pumpkin carving, Halloween is a holiday that simultaneously speaks to mortality and celebrates the living moment and nearness of family—and warmth of tradition!