|Source: Graphics Fairy|
Where it all began...
Apparently it all began in Ireland. (Source) Halloween has its origins from the ancient Celtic festival, Samhain. Samhain was an end of harvest celebration in Gaelic culture. It was the day Gaels took stock of their winter stores from the harvest and prepare for the winter. October 31st is a day that was believed the boundaries of the the dead and living worlds overlapped, so the dead could come cause trouble for the living on this day (like damaging crops). People wore costumes to appease and/or scare the evil spirits. The festival often included bonfires which is believed to have attracted insects to the area. The insects of course attracted bats. It is believed this is where the bat association with Halloween comes from. (Source)
The Roman Empire had captured most of the Celt territory by 42 A.D. During their rule they combined two Roman festivals with Samhain. First in late October they had Feralia, a day that commemorated the passing of the dead. The second was Pomona a day to honor the Roman goddess for fruit and trees. The symbol for Pomona is an apple which may have brought the apple traditions like bobbing for apples to Halloween. (Source)
In 1000 A.D. the Catholic Church had declared November 2 All Souls Day, a day to honor the dead. It is believed that they were trying to replace the Celtic/Roman festivals with this. It was celebrated very much in the same way as Samhain was with bonfires, costumes, and parades. The celebrations often began the night before and were called All Hallows or All Hallowmas and then All Hallows Eve and eventually Halloween. (Source)
Trick-or-treating is where the children (or in my neighborhood even some adults) come door to door in costume looking for a treat. The trick part of "trick-or-treat" is that if you do not provide a treat they will play a trick on you. It is believed that trick-or-treating may have come from the Middle Ages "souling". Souling is where the poor dressed in costumes and went door to door begging for food on Hallowmas (November 1) in exchange for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day (November 2). However there are not good records of Halloween to really establish this and souling was not a known practice in America. The first reference to trick-or-treating in North America was in 1911 in Ontario. However there does not seem to be a widespread trick-or-treating practice until the 1930's. The practice spread eastward from the western part of the United States.
Jack O' Lanterns...
The carving of pumpkins into jack o' lanterns also comes from the Irish. There is an Irish legend called Stingy Jack where the tradition comes from. People in Ireland and Scotland make their own versions of jack o' lanterns out of turnips and potatoes and put them in their windows and doorways to scare away Stingy Jack. In England, beets are used. In America the immigrants found native pumpkins and used them. (Source)
I need to get sewing, so I'm going to save my celebrations around the world until next week. However if you are looking for some great Halloween craft ideas (many which go along with books), check out my crafts from last year.