A RIO Fun History of Halloween

Halloween is celebrated annually on October 31 and is considered to have originated with the Celts in the area now known as Ireland, the United Kingdom and France, with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in. Don’t ask us how you get sow-in out of Samhain, we’re just following the rules!).

During Samhain people would light huge, sacred bonfires, burn crops and sacrifice animals.  They dressed in costumes, usually consisting of animal heads and skins to ward off ghosts believed to roam the earth on this night.

Samhain marked the end of summer and the harvest time and beginning of winter, a season associated with human death and darkness. Besides causing trouble and damaging crops, the Celts believed the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Celtic priests to make predictions about the future and for people who were entirely dependent on the volatility of the natural world, these predictions were a source of comfort and direction for the long winter ahead.

Later the Roman Empire conquered the majority of Celtic territory and ruled for 400 years, during which time they combined the celebration of Samhain with Feralia, a day in late October when they commemorated the passing of the dead and a second was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple and probably explains the origins of “bobbing” for apples that we play today.

When Halloween first came to America, the celebration was limited in colonial New England because of strict Protestant beliefs. Halloween was much more common in Maryland, Virginia and the southern colonies. As the beliefs and customs of European ethnic groups combined with the American Indians, an American version of Halloween took hold. Early Halloween activities celebrated the harvest, and neighbors would share stories of the dead, tell fortunes, dance and sing. By the middle of the nineteenth century, annual autumn festivities were common, but Halloween was not celebrated everywhere in the country.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, as new immigrants arrived to American shores, especially the Irish, the celebration of Halloween nationally unfolded and Americans began to dress up in costumes and go house to house asking for food or money, which eventually became today’s “trick-or-treat” tradition.

In the late 1800s, there was a move in America to make Halloween more of a holiday about community and neighborly get-togethers than about ghosts and pranks. Parties focused on games and foods of the season, combined with festive costumes. Parents were encouraged to take anything “frightening” or “grotesque” out of Halloween celebrations and Halloween lost much of its superstitious and religious overtones.

In the 1920s and 1930s, Halloween featured parades and town-wide parties. and the practice of trick-or-treating was revived. Trick-or-treating was a relatively inexpensive way for the community to share the Halloween celebration. Today, Americans spend an estimated $6 billion annually on Halloween, making it the country’s second largest commercial holiday.

How do you celebrate Halloween? Do you dress up? Trick or treat or turn out the lights and hope no one knocks?  Tell us your traditions on our facebook page at facebook.com/riogoodcarwash.  And don’t forget to stop by the car wash on Halloween – if you are driving an orange or black vehicle or you come in costume, your wash is free!  Have a RIO happy Halloween ya’ll!