Halloween: A Quick Study of the History and Superstitions

It’s October and it’s time for Halloween. For this article I wanted to present a quick discussion highlighting some interesting and fun facts about the Halloween holiday; mainly, its history and the superstitious beliefs associated with it.

The History (and My History) of Halloween

I attended Catholic school and can remember that one of my teachers was very adamant about NOT celebrating the Halloween holiday. She insisted that it supported pagan practices and traditions and it was a work of the devil. I did not want to disrespectful so I did what most well-mannered and well-behaved children did when their teachers said things they did not believe or agree with. I ignored her. Hey! I just wanted a pumpkin full of candy! LOL.

But as an adult, I was a little curious about the history of Halloween. It turns out my teacher was right. It was derived from pagan customs. More specifically, it is a modification of activities associated with an ancient Celtic ritual of Samhain, which was a festival that celebrated the changing of the seasons from summer to winter. Uumm? That doesn’t exactly sound devilish.

Amanda Pagan wrote a post titled “A Brief History of Halloween”, which was published in the official blog for the New York Public Library. Her explanation of the holiday’s history is very colorful. As it is a library blog, she also provided a list of a dozen books as recommended reading if you want to know more. Halloween may have had religious import or application in the beginning but as of today, for most people (including me), the day no religious significance at all. It’s just a day set aside for apple-bobbing, eating tricks and treats, visiting haunted houses that simultaneously frighten you and make you laugh, dressing up in funny costumes, and maybe binge-watching some scary movies. Nothing more.

Halloween Superstitions

Black cats, witches, and pumpkins? Oh my! Where do all of these superstitions come from? Obviously, since the holiday is derived from a Celtic ritual, the superstitions that are prevalent to this day have Celtic roots. I personally don’t believe these superstitions, especially not the one about black cats being bad luck. Some believed black cats were witches in disguise or witches reborn or they were just witch-helpers. If you do the research you will find a lot of information pertaining to all of the folklore about black cats. You’ll find everything except the name of the person who started it!

There are numerous superstitions linked to this holiday. If you are interested in an explanation of the various beliefs about everything from bats and black cats to ghosts and spirits to spiders and trick or treat, check out this “Guide to Halloween Superstitions”.

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Fun Links of Interest:

Halloween History – How Halloween Has Traveled the Globe | SAPIENS

The History of Halloween: A timeline through the centuries | Make It Grateful

Samhain Folklore, Superstitions and Legends | Learn Religions

12 (Mostly) Spooky Halloween Superstitions | Mental Floss

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