We love Halloween, and we're pretty sure you do too. In recent years, Halloween has become more and more popular especially in the United States, and some people look forward to it all year long. They can't wait to dress in costume, attend parties, take kids trick-or-treating, carve pumpkins, and everything else we do on October 31. For true Halloween fans, it's the biggest event of the year, even above Christmas.
Halloween has its origins in an ancient Celtic holiday called Samhain, which became combined with other holidays through Roman and other influence. Originally, Samhain was a festival that marked the Celtic new year when summer ended and winter approached. Since winter was a time of cold and darkness, and deaths were more common, the season took on some frightening connotations. Samhain was the turning point before this dark period, and so on that night the boundary between the world of the living and the world of the dead was thought to weaken.
Ghosts of the dead were thought to wander the world during this night. If they weren't appeased, they could cause some real problems by destroying crops, damaging homes, and playing dangerous pranks on the Celtic folk. The Celts would leave food and wine at their doorsteps for the ghosts and dress in costume so they'd "fit in" with the risen spirits.
When the Romans conquered the Celtic lands of Britain and Ireland, they followed their usual practice of combining the local pagan holidays with the nearest Roman holiday. Samhain was combined with the Roman festival of Feralia, a traditional day of commemorating the dead, and the holiday honoring Pomona, the goddess of trees and fruit. This is how bobbing for apples became part of Halloween tradition.
Later, as Roman Christianity developed, the holidays of All Saints' Day and All Martyrs' Day were combined into All Souls' Day, a festival to honor the dead in a similar way as the Celts did on Samhain. All Souls' Day took place the day after Samhain and was also called All-Hallows, making Samhain into All Hallows Eve. In this way, the two similar holidays combined into one, which was probably deliberate on the Romans' part as they sought to replace pagan holidays with Roman Christian ones. Eventually, the name All Hallows Eve turned into Halloween.
Halloween in America
Naturally, when settlers of Celtic origin made their way to the New World, they brought their traditions with them. Halloween had lost much of its original meaning and became more about having fun together as a community, especially since Protestant influence in the American colonies was strongly against anything associated with witchcraft or demonic magic. Eventually, efforts were made to remove everything "scary" from Halloween and turn it primarily into a children's holiday. (Thankfully, Halloween eventually recovered from that, as you can see by browsing some of the horrifying masks in our catalog.)
The situation got worse for Halloween as the decades progressed, with more people losing interest in it as well as outward attempts from religious communities to ban it. There was a huge scare in the late 1900s regarding Satanism, which made Halloween even less popular. It was a niche holiday, just for kids and considered by many to be disreputable or even evil. Halloween might have died out by now if not for one person — and it's someone who you'd least expect.
Halloween had massive potential for crafting, party planning, decorating, cooking and baking, and commercialization. This made it a prime interest for someone who'd built an empire on those things: Martha Stewart! Never mind that by the 1990s public opinion wasn't favorable to Halloween, Martha saw an opportunity to bring out its best qualities: fun and creativity. And best of all, she didn't take it in an overly cutesy direction. Sure, she created some adorable decorations, but she also provided information on creating more classic horror décor like cobwebs and bloodstains for you to turn your home into a full-on haunted house. (You can even get blood spatter stickers now. With glitter. No, we're not kidding.)
So, yes, Halloween went mainstream, but that isn't a bad thing. The result is that it became perfectly acceptable to celebrate Halloween no matter who you are, and to be as scary as possible without people forgetting it’s all in good fun. In other words, the moral panic faded and Halloween became "respectable" again. It experienced a revival in which adults felt they could enjoy a classic, horror-filled holiday without earning the enmity of their neighbors. Now, every year, anyone who wants to dress up as a terrifying werewolf, witch, vampire, alien, or other monster can do so, and no one bats an eye. After all, it's Halloween! It's part of our culture now, and it's here to stay.
Of course, there are still some people today who don't celebrate Halloween, but it’s their loss, isn't it?