With Halloween right around the corner it’s a great time to sit around and reminisce about years past. It’s fun to think of creative costumes to trick-or-treat in, and we can’t forget about all that candy just waiting to be collected! But how often do you really think about the origins of this annual autumn event? Why did people begin these traditions, where did the name Halloween actually come from, and do other countries recognize it as we do?
The roots of what we now know as Halloween dates back more than 2,000 years with the Celts, and served a much different purpose than it does for us today. November 1st was recognized as the beginning of a new year, and the annual festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in) took place on the evening before. This time of year was of particular significance since it marked the end of the warm summer days when food could be plentiful, and ushered in the cold, dark winter months when crops perished and people often became ill. It was believed that on the night of October 31st the lines between the world of the living and dead were obscured and ghosts of those departed returned to earth. Bon fires were lit in thanksgiving for the harvest. People dressed in masks in order to ‘trick’ the ghosts, and left ‘treats’ on the doorstep of their homes so the ghosts would be pleased and pass on by.
Around the 8th century (in Christianity), November 1st was known as All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse, meaning All Saints’ Day). The night before was referred to as All-Hallows Even, eventually abbreviated to Hallowe’en. In the early-to-mid 20th century the abbreviation was again changed to what we know today as Halloween.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries Hallowe’en was often a time of mischief for children and adolescents. Private community groups began to organize dances and events to resolve this problem. As it became easier to have these gatherings at people’s homes, Hallowe’en again transformed in America. Costumes and decorations had been homemade creations, but by the turn of the century two companies, Beistle and Dennison Manufacturing, realized that a profit could be made from magazines and decorations. It is estimated that Americans spend around 7 billion dollars on Halloween – a far cry from the homemade costumes and decorations of yesteryear.
The Celtic autumn festival that we now observe as Halloween has influences in many other countries as well. Our ancestors, who brought specific traditions and customs to America, have influenced how we celebrate Halloween today, and this is truly what makes this time of year extra sweet!
Are you interested in knowing how the Danes recognize and celebrate Halloween? Or just how did that jack-o-lantern get his name? And would you like some creative ways of donating all that extra candy? Well, treat yourself to our Pinterest page!
And for a truly one-of-a-kind indulgence (that was most likely one of Anna’s favorites) try the Danish favorite Flødebollen. The famous, and very popular, Summerbird chocolatier has created a Halloween spin on the traditional chocolate covered marshmallow treat: Halloween flødeboller med chokolade . You’ll undoubtedly be the hit at the neighborhood party arriving with these!
Don’t forget to join us for our Annual Fall Festival and Frikadeller dinner on November 2nd!