The spooky roots of Halloween, and the holidays associated with it

Sophia Kobernusz-Gibbs, Staff Writer

While it may not be labeled as the happiest time of the year, Oct. 31st to Nov. 2nd is just as busy as the traditional holiday season. This time of year holds cultural and religious significance as it is the time of the dead. When October comes around, most people think of Halloween. However, there is more than just tricks or treats during this brisk time of year. In fact, Halloween stems from a specific festival called Samhain. In Latinx cultures, El Día de Los Muertos is an annual reunion and festival, and for other groups, All Saint’s Day is celebrated. 

Meaning ‘Summer’s End’ in Irish, the old Celtic pagan festival Samhain holds all of Halloween’s roots. It marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the winter. According to Time magazine, “during this festival, the world of the gods ‘was believed to be made visible to humankind,’… ghosts of the dead and spirits from the otherworld were also thought to return to the earth during Samhain.” 

Traditionally, Samhain was a night of sacrifices, to either celebrate the harvest, appease a god, or gain protection from otherworldly beings. While the religious beliefs did not penetrate larger American society, the opportunity for capitalism did. 

While often confused with Halloween, El Día de Los Muertos is a unique and separate holiday, where families of the deceased welcome them back for a short reunion. The doors of death are opened at midnight on Oct. 31st, allowing for the spirits of children and adults to be reunited with their family members for a limited period of time. This reunion includes food such as pan de muerto or mole, drinks like hibiscus tea, and celebration.  

El día de Los Muertos takes place over a few days, starting on Oct. 31st and continuing to Nov. 2nd. On Nov. 1st, it is el Día de Los Inocentes or Angelitos, translated to “day of the children or little angels.” It then concludes with Día de Los Difuntos on Nov. 2nd, when all adults who have passed are honored. 

There is a belief in safeguarding and watching over the graves of the deceased that is observed on Nov. 2nd, or All Saint’s Day. All Saint’s Day is celebrated by the Latino communities as well as specific religious denominations. The day is typically observed as a day to pray for the saints laid to rest, and is a holy day of obligation for Catholics worldwide. However, Catholics are not the only individuals that celebrate this day. Protestant churches like Lutherans and Anglicans also observe All Saints’ Day.

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