There’s a dark side to the innocent child-centered holiday
The Halloween of today, in which children dress up as ghouls, ghosts, and witches and light-heartedly demand “treats” from neighbors under threat of a “trick,” has largely been reimported from the United States, where Irish immigrants introduced the custom in the 19th century. It partially stems from the idea that all law is suspended on Halloween. Dressing up in masks and costumes prevents people from being recognized by their own community. Being separated in this way allows the participants to play boisterous and often antisocial tricks. While you’re trick-or-treating with your kids, here are some facts about the candy they’re collecting.
It originally began as a pagan festival honoring the dead
While modern day trick-or-treating has origins in defying the law, the custom of dressing up for Halloween started as a form of spiritual self-defense. For Celts and Anglo-Saxons, the year ended when the herds were brought in from pasture at the end of October. The new year began in November, marked by the festival of Samhain, a celebration in which purifying bonfires were lit. On the night before Samhain, souls of the departed could return temporarily to their hearths, and ghosts and demons were free to roam the Earth. To protect themselves, the living dressed up like these evil spirits, Smithsonian Magazine reports, so any demons would think they were interacting with one of their own kind. This is what Halloween really is—and how it’s celebrated.