The Story of Halloween by: Carol Greene, illustrated by: Linda Bronson, Harper Collins Publishers, 2004.
This book is a good historical review of where our Halloween traditions get their origin. Halloween was the combination of several different holidays, from several different cultures. The Celt tradition of October 31 being the last day of the year, when ghosts of those who had died in the past year, as well as elves and fairies and scary creatures roamed. They would make big bonfires to scare the creatures away. From this tradition we have a feeling of spooks in the night this day. The Romans added their traditional day of honoring the goddess of fruits. This is likely where we get the apple dunking tradition. From Christians we get honoring all Saints day, and the day before being Halloween, or all Hallows Eve. But Britain still held some of their believes in Spirits wondering the night. SO they would still build bonfires and tell scary stories. England also had a tradition of going door to door begging for soul-cakes, or a penny. Some of those going around started the tradition of playing tricks, boarding up doors, or chimneys. “The spirits did it.” From Latin countries we get the honoring of the Day of the Dead.
From Ireland we got the first jack o’ lanterns, originally made of turnips or rutabagas and potatoes. These were carved out with ugly faces. When many of the Irish immigrated to the United States, they brought this tradition with them. However, pumpkins were more readily available, and easier to carve, so became the fruit of choice.
By the end of the 1800s, celebration of Halloween was firmly entrenched into our society. Our Holiday includes parts of many different celebrations, and has evolved over time. It took a turn for the worse, when excessive tricking threatened to take away the safe play of young people on this day. Building fires, slashing tires, and excessive vandalism, along with older boys bullying younger, threatening to take candy, threatened the safety of all. Now there are more community and organized events, and parents supervising children, especially younger children. It is a good day to meet your neighbors.