How to Get Ready For Halloween 2022
You think you know what Halloween is all about? Hint: It wasn't always celebrated with candy and pumpkins. Read on to learn the origins.
What is Halloween? It’s a simple question you’ve probably answered since you were old enough to go trick-or-treating … or is it that simple? Most people don’t know the true origins of this now-commercialized holiday.
Before you deck your halls with ghosts, goblins and ghoulish decorations, take a moment to learn the history of Halloween.
When is Halloween?
Halloween always takes place on October 31. This year, it’s a Monday. So if you forget to buy candy on the weekend, you’ll still have time to run to the store to stock up.
Halloween can be traced back to an ancient Celtic holiday called Samhain (pronounced SOW-inn), celebrated around 2,000 years ago in what is now Ireland, Scotland and England, plus parts of Northern Europe. The three-day pagan religious festival began around Oct. 31 to honor the harvest and prepare for the “the dark half of the year.“
The ancient Celts believed the line between the living and the spiritual realm blurred on this day. Ghosts from beyond could visit the living, and monsters could find their way into people’s houses.
Celtic priests (also known as Druids) started the holiday with a bonfire to welcome the spirits back to the world of the living. During this ritual, they burned crops and animals as sacrifices to the gods. They also focused on the temporary return of their loved ones. Children played games with the dead at their homes and adults tried to converse with them.
How Halloween Started
It’s no coincidence a few Catholic holidays fall right around Halloween. In the eighth century A.D., Pope Gregory III moved the feast of All Martyrs’ Day from May 13 to November 1 and turned it into All Saints’ Day. Then in 1000 A.D., the Catholic Church added All Souls’ Day on Nov. 2 to pray for the dead. Why? To ease the transition from paganism to Catholicism.
And it worked. All Souls’ Day embraced many of Samhain’s celebrations, including bonfires, parades and costumes. One difference: People mainly dressed up as saints, angels and devils. October 31 was subsequently called All Hallows’ Eve, and eventually Halloween.
Who Celebrates Halloween?
Halloween was a tough sell in colonial America because of the new population’s strict religious beliefs, though it was celebrated in Maryland (a haven for Catholics fleeing England) and the South.
As Europeans mingled with the Native Americans, traditions evolved even further. Halloween festivities meshed with autumn festivals, featuring celebratory public events, singing and dancing, ghost stories and pranks.
But it wasn’t until the second half of the 19th century that Halloween really became popular in the United States. Irish immigrants escaping the Potato Famine brought their Halloween traditions with them. By the 1930s Halloween became almost completely secularized, with All Saints’ Day becoming more of a religious holiday.
Many Americans are obsessed with Halloween, but it’s not as popular in other countries. In Canada and Ireland, the celebrations are similar. But in England, Halloween is generally not celebrated at all. And in Mexico, the holiday Dios de Los Muertos resembles Halloween, but it’s a separate tradition.
How to Celebrate Halloween
Besides dressing up to fool these spirits, people carried treats as bribes in case the spirits confronted them. They also carried jack-o’-lanterns made of turnips to light up darkness and scare off unsavory spirits. Later, Irish immigrants swapped out the turnips for the now-ubiquitous pumpkins.
Starting in the late 20th century, Halloween became increasingly about commercialism and profits. Americans were expected to spend $9 billion on Halloween in 2018, a number that continues to increase each year.
So how do people celebrate Halloween these days? You can probably answer that question yourself: with costumes, parties, toys, decorations and candy showing up in stores earlier and earlier every year.
You’ll find all kinds of decoration options, whether you go all out or prefer to keep it low-key. Jack-o-lanterns, of course, are one of the original Halloween decorations. But in recent years string lights, spider webs and all manner of monsters have made their way into the spotlight.
You don’t have to climb onto your roof and put up lights the way you do for Christmas. Instead, putting out some fake spider webs on your bushes, jack-o-lanterns on your porch and some lights around your windows will set the scene. If you live in a close-knit neighborhood, you can coordinate decorations with your neighbors to create a haunted street.
If you want to go big, look for fog machines, tombstones and monster decorations to set up in your yard. Recreate a scene from your favorite scary movie, or just go for a “creepy” setup. Be mindful that the scarier your yard, the more intimidated younger kids will be. Try to strike the right festive balance.
If your neighborhood allows it, you could set up speakers to play Halloween movie soundtracks, festive songs or scary noises to add to the ambiance. Just be sure to check local noise laws first and talk to your neighbors to get the OK. You don’t want to be a nuisance!
Trick or treating
As Halloween grew in popularity, Americans adopted the Celtic tradition of dressing up and transformed it into what we now know as trick-or-treating. What started as a “bribe” for spirits has become a highlight of the holiday.
Be sure to keep a variety of candy on hand; some children have allergies. It’s traditional for the kids to say “trick or treat,” but keep in mind some children might not be confident enough to do it. And while most trick-or-treaters are young kids, try not to turn away any older ones who come around. They’re trying to enjoy as much of their childhood magic as possible.
Halloween stores pop up every fall. If you don’t want to make your costume, you can always buy one. Keep in mind the inspiration behind your costume. Dressing up as your favorite character is a great way to celebrate the holiday, but avoid cultural stereotypes.
You don’t have to dress up on your own! Group costumes are a great way to get your friends together. Host a themed Halloween or murder mystery party and see what your friends come up with!
If you’re feeling particularly generous, you can even hold a costume contest with prizes. This is a great activity for kids too. It gives them something fun to do once they’ve finished trick-or-treating.