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What’s The History Behind Halloween And Why Is It Celebrated In October?

What’s The History Behind Halloween And Why Is It Celebrated In October?

Halloween might have started as a religious holiday way back then but it’s now a secular one.

Adeline Leong

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Halloween is a fun event that is celebrated every October 31 by people around the world. It’s a festive day filled with spooky costumes, parties, candies, pumpkins and Starbucks merch. With so many activities packed in one day, have you ever wondered how did this celebration come to be?

As it is with history, there are many theories regarding the origin of Halloween. The earliest celebration of Halloween is largely believed to have originated from the Celtic harvest festival, dating back nearly 2,000 years ago, known as Samhain.

Samhain marked the end of summer and the harvesting period, and the start of a cold winter. Back then, winter was a frightening time because many people, especially the poor, would starve and possibly die of hunger. Thus, Samhain is also associated with death.

According to Celtic beliefs, it’s also a day when the boundary between the worlds of the living and dead are thinned, making it a perfect time for ghosts to play. This belief pretty much contributed to the spooky and haunted connotations of the Halloween celebration in current times.

Many believe that the Celts put on scary costumes made out of animal hides to scare away any roaming spirits on Earth. Hungry children living in the brutal winter months will beg for food and money, which evolved into the trick-or-treating activity practiced in other parts of the world today.

Trick-or-treating in costumes. Image by Charles Parker/ Pexels

The second theory believes that Halloween comes from the Christian holy day known as All Hallows’ Eve.

All Hallows’ Eve (31 October) is a celebration in the evening before All Hallows’ Day or All Saints’ Day (1 November). Both of these days pay homage to saints.

Originally, All Hallows’ Eve fell on 13 May. However, Pope Boniface IV made the call to change the date to the current November 1 date.

It’s widely believed that the date change is the church’s attempt to replace the pagan Celtic festival, Samhain.

The Halloween we know today

Halloween might have begun as a religious holiday back in those times but it’s a completely secular one today. [According to the Oxford Dictionary, secular means not connected with religious or spiritual matters.]

The Halloween we celebrate these days has dropped most, if not all, of its religious and superstitious roots.

It’s treated as another fun, community-based event for all to enjoy which happens to take place before Diwali and Christmas in Malaysia. The more fun events, the better!

Halloween is also a great time for people of all ages to dress up in their wackiest outfit and get away with it. The costume selections can range from spooky ( the usual zombies, witches etc) to downright hilarious ones (a giant receipt, avocado belly, Gru’s minions).

While Malaysians don’t really go door-to-door for trick-or-treating, we’re pretty creative when it comes to food and home decorations.

We transform ordinary snacks such as donuts, cakes or kuihs into ‘spooky’ yet cute creations. The creative ones will take opportunity to decorate their homes with store bought or DIY Halloween decor on this day too.

‘Scary’ donuts. Image by Daisy Anderson/ Pexels

Regardless of the day’s origins, Halloween is the one day in the year when everyone will pray to whoever they believe in especially if they’re in modern haunted attraction. Even the atheists must believe in something, right?


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