Halloween does not deserve to be called a holiday. “Holiday” means “holy day,” but Halloween does not fit this definition. It has deteriorated into a candy fest and a costume-celebrating commercial event, an excuse for money-hungry marketers to sell over three billion dollars worth of merchandise every year.
Halloween began as the ancient Celtic festival Samhain, pronounced sow-en and meaning “summer’s end.” Samhain marked the Celtic new year and was celebrated on October 31. It was believed that on this day the souls of the dead wandered the earth looking for bodies to possess for the coming year. The priest would light a bonfire in the middle of the village to thank the sun god for the harvest and to repel the evil spirits. The villagers would then proceed from their homes to the bonfire, dressing as monsters and being as destructive as they could in order to ward off the spirits.
In the early 600’s, Pope Boniface IV was trying to spread Christianity to pagan people. Since he could not stop them from celebrating Samhain, he put a Christian spin on it by moving All Saints Day (a.k.a. “All Hallow’s”) from November 2 to November 1. October 31 then was referred to as “All Hallow’s Eve,” which has become our “Halloween.”
Today, Halloween makes us think of costumes and candy more than its pagan and Christian roots. The typical buyer is projected by the National Retail Federation to spend almost $50 on Halloween decorations, candy, and costumes. It has degenerated into nothing more than a commercial event: just an excuse to buy stuff in-between real holidays.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.