This is Halloween History Part 1

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The tradition of Halloween began roughly 2000 years ago in the regions of what is now the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Northern France by a group of people called the Celts. The Celts celebrated their New Year on November 1, but on October 31, they celebrated the festival of Samhain. The Celts believed that the night before the New Year, the lines of the physical world and the spiritual world were blurred which made it easier for the dead to come back to earth as spirits. During Samhain, the Celts would dress up in animal heads, skins, masks, and other costumes to confuse and make themselves unrecognizable to the spirits returning to the earth.

Fast forward to 43 A.D., when the Romans were in control of the civilized world. The Roman festival of Feralia, which was celebrated in late October to honor the passing of their dead, and the festival honoring Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees, were combined with Samhain. It is believed that the tradition of bobbing for apples was created around this time, as Pomona’s sacred symbol was the apple.

On May 13, 609 A.D. Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Pantheon in Rome to honor Christian martyrs, which established the Catholic feast of All Martyrs Day. This holiday was later moved back to November 1 and went on to include all of the saints, changing the name to All Saints Day. On this day, the poor would go house to house, begging for food and money. People would give out Soul Cakes to the poor in return for a prayer for dead loved ones. This practice was eventually taken up by children, who started to dress up and play pranks on people who would not give them food or money, which is how trick-or-treating got its start.

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In 1000 A.D., the Catholic church made November 2 All Souls Day to honor all of the dead. Since All Souls Day was often called All-Hallows, the night before was deemed All-Hallows Eve, which eventually morphed into Halloween. Some practices from Samhain still lingered, such as costumes, parades, and bonfires, but since the holiday was now church-sanctioned, pagan practices were often overlooked in celebration.

Centuries later in colonial America, Halloween was typically celebrated by the southern colonies by those mostly of Western European descent. Customs of different European ethnic groups intermingled with those of the Native Americans. The first few Halloweens celebrated on American soil were typically public events held to celebrate the harvest. Neighbors would share creative and imaginative tales of the dead and tell fortunes.

By the middle of the nineteenth-century, annual autumn festivities were common, but Halloween was not yet widely celebrated. Irish and Scottish immigrants fleeing the potato famine settled in America and brought their deeply rooted traditions of Halloween with them…

For the rest of the history of Halloween, be sure to check out Ashton’s blog post, “This is Halloween History Part 2!” It will post later this week.

To learn more about Halloween, make sure you check out our Online Resources. Happy Halloween!

Last-Minute Bookish Halloween Costumes

Trying to figure out what to be for Halloween can be one of the most stressful things you’ll do this fall. Here are a few literary-inspired Halloween costumes that are bound to get you noticed by your fellow book-lovers.

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

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All you really need are some faded jeans, a plain t-shirt, and a black leather jacket. Some Converse high-tops or ankle boots would go well with the ensemble, too.  Oh, and don’t forget the comb and grease for your hair. You could always add a fake switchblade for some extra flair. Just remember to stay golden.

Junie B. Jones series by Barbara Park

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This is another super easy costume you could assemble to make the world’s favorite big mouth come alive. Junie B.’s signature look is a purple skirt and pink sweater (and don’t forget the giant bow!)., Honestly, as long as you dress like a kindergartner/first-grader, you’ll be good. If you’re going for Junie B.’s first-grade look, you can’t forget her purple glasses.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians series and Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan

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If you’ve read both or either one of these series by Rick Riordan, you’ll know that the basic ensemble for a Camp Half-Blood or Camp Jupiter character is either an orange or purple t-shirt with the camp logo on it. You can buy these shirts for really cheap or you could make your own. You can wear whatever pants and shoes you want, as long as you’ll be able to run from or fight monsters. Don’t forget your weapon of choice, whether Greek or Roman.

Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

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For a Holden Caulfield-inspired ensemble, you’ll just need some sturdy pants, loafers, a winter coat, scarf, and, of course, the hunter’s cap. You could carry around a leather bag, too, to store your candy in. I don’t recommend taking up smoking, but you could carry around some candy cigarettes and talk about how phony everyone is.

Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins

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For Katniss’s classic look from The Hunger Games, you probably have most of the pieces  in your closet already. Start with a pair of dark pants, a dark jacket (or leather jacket if she hasn’t competed in the Games yet), and boots. And don’t forget her Mockingjay pin or her bow and arrows.

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

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If dressing up really isn’t your thing, then you could always be ironic.

What is the best literary Halloween costume that you’ve ever seen? What are some other easy or DIY costumes from books that you can think of? I’m still trying to decide whether to go as Annabeth Chase or Junie B. Jones.