We’re all growing more and more excited as Halloween approaches. Do you have your costume ready? Did you prepare the candies for the small ones who will knock at your door? Are you ready for some pranks and mischief from your friends? Yes, it is that time of the year again: the time to be spooked and thrilled beyond your imagination. And of course, the time to take the shops by storm. It’s no surprise that today Halloween is the second most commercial holiday, but has it always been like this? Let us take you back to the holiday’s roots, to a time before Halloween turned into a booming business.
Brief History of Halloween
The story of how Halloween became the holiday we’re all familiar with is quite fascinating and full of mystery and charm. Historians agree that the dusk of this celebration is represented by the Celtic festival around 2,000 years ago called Samhain (pronounced “sah-win”) which announced that winter was coming. November 1 represented the end of summer and the beginning of the cold season so it was seen as a threshold between seasons but between the living and the dead as well. People would enjoy bonfires, dances, as well as other rituals during this time.
Later, Pope Gregory III marked November 1 as All Saints’ Day celebrating all saints and martyrs while November 2 became All Souls’ Day, a holiday that honored the dead. These were the Christian equivalent to the Celtic festival, but were celebrations sanctioned by the church, while also keeping some elements of Samhain. On Souls’ Day, poor people would beg for food and receive so-called “soul cakes” if they promised to pray for the dead. It is believed that the “trick or treat” tradition has developed from this practice initially called “going a-souling”. The All Saints’ Day holiday was also called All-hallows, while the night prior to this celebration was All-hallows Eve. This term eventually became the “Halloween” we all know today.
Once it reached America, Halloween was mixed with local Native American customs as well as with the practices of the many different European groups. This fusion of rituals gave birth to a new holiday closer to what we’re celebrating today. The holiday was further popularized in the latter half of the 19th century with the help of Irish immigrants. During this time, people were celebrating it with dances, games, and costumes and it became more about a sense of community, losing most of its religious connotations.
Because in the 1920s and 1930s, there were many cases of vandalism and more serious pranks that endangered communities and worried neighbors, people thought the celebration should be reserved for the younger ones. With the return to a treat-or-trick door-to-door practice, the sense of community was reestablished and an American Halloween tradition was born.
There are many superstitions that are related to the earlier festivities. For example, it was believed that if young women gazed into the mirror in the candlelight on All-hallows night, they could see the face of their future husband (this later became the “Bloody Mary” game that most kids are familiar with today). One other superstition said that if young women peeled an apple and threw the peel over their shoulder, this would fall on the floor in the shape of their future husband’s initial. Another custom related to apples, one that is still alive today, was about trying to pluck an apple from a bucket filled with water without using your hands. It was believed that the first woman who succeeded would be the first one to marry.
But how did the scary costume tradition came into being? This fun practice has roots in both the Celtic and the All Saints’ Day festivals. Because the days were becoming shorter and the cold was near, people were more worried than usual. They even thought that if they left their homes on Halloween, ghosts would come in so they had to disguise in case they received the unexpected visit and have ghosts believe they were one of them.
History tells us that Halloween has managed to preserve some of that dark, magical, and frightening tinges. Some practices and beliefs are still alive, but there is also a new component that came into being with the industrial revolution. Halloween has exceeded its status of a spooky holiday full of superstitions and tricks. It has become an opportunity for businesses to flourish and for sales to go up. With people all over the world now celebrating it religiously, Halloween screams big money.
But how did Halloween marketing evolve? How did the holiday turn into a multi-billion-dollar affair? It is now clear that in October more candies, more chocolate, and more costumes are being sold than in any other time of the year (exceeding even Valentine’s Day chocolate sales). In 2016, 171 million Americans will be celebrating Halloween and this is an all-time record. Why is this the case?
“Halloween has exceeded its status of a spooky holiday full of superstitions and tricks. It has become an opportunity for businesses to flourish and for sales to go up.”
One factor that helped Halloween grow into what it is today is the advancement of technology and with it the rise of social media and smartphones. This allows people to connect more and share their Halloween plans, stories, and costumes with their friends, but also to buy more stuff online. This is one reason why you should keep your content fresh, and Halloween friendly – it will help your business blossom. People also use social media as an outlet to express themselves, celebrate with others, and feel part of a wider community.
Maybe one other explanation is that adults need an escape from everyday reality more than ever, they want to leave work and worries behind, wear a costume, and become someone else. They feel the need to throw in a party and put on extravagant make up to have fun and restore that sense of community that Halloween was about. They want to play and give in to their fantasies, they want to be scared and thrilled and share these experiences with their loved ones. And Halloween gives them just that: a way out, a sweet adventure in the horror land.
Happy and frightening Halloween! And remember: if you need help with improving your content this Halloween, please don’t hesitate to contact Iris Content.
Content Happiness Advisor
Annie has 18 years’ experience as an editor and content creator and manager. With work in television and written media, she has dedicated her past 10 years to learning the ropes of online content creation, from writing to editing, from SEO to content management.
Want new articles before they get published?