Gender & Identity, Life

I Googled Halloween’s history so you don’t have to

Turns out the Celts of ancient Ireland are the reason your CVS looks unrecognizable and you're suddenly pre-diabetic.

It’s the second week of October, which means Halloween is right around the corner for us all. However, Halloween wasn’t always celebrated the way that it is now, in fact, it has a very interesting historical past that most people don’t know very much about. Luckily, Google filled me in so you don’t have to do any research on your own.

Halloween, or All Hallows Eve as it was once called, dates back to the Ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts were a race of people who lived more than 2,000 years ago in the areas that are now modern-day Ireland, the U.K., and northern France. Samhain was celebrated on October 31, while their New Year was celebrated a day later on November 1.

The festival traditionally marked the end of the summer and harvest season, and the beginning of a long, dark and cold winter. But Samhain was also considered to be a time of celebration and superstition, as the Celts believed the lines between the living and dead got blurry. They would light bonfires and dress in costumes to ward off the roaming ghosts who reemerged to wreak havoc on earth.

Things started to change in the 8th century. Pope Gregory III made the decision that November 1 would become All Saint’s Day, as a time to honor the saints and martyrs. The holiday also incorporated some the traditions of Samhain. The trick-or-treating, jack-o-lanterns and masks you see today have their own equally rich histories.

Fast forward now into the 21st century, and things couldn’t be more different. Halloween has become a massive, hyped-up secular holiday that celebrates overconsumption and is clearly intent on making diabetics of us all.

The malls start weeks in advance with their decorations of bats, spiders, and just about anything with fake blood on it. Your local CVS looks unrecognizable, and does your inner sugar-addict proud by pulling out all the stops on your favorite sweets. Bags of them. Bags and bags and bags.

Halloween decorations are draped around people’s homes, your Facebook feed is one continuous stream of increasingly elaborate parties and costumes, and the doorbell will. Not. Stop. Ringing.

Everywhere you go, Halloween themed coffees, cakes, pastries, and foods beckon you forth with their delightful aromas. Good luck resisting it all this time of year, ladies and gentlemen – it’s a nearly impossible feat. Don’t even try to pretend you don’t indulge in Starbucks’ seasonal pumpkin spice lattes and salted caramel mochas.

It’s because of all this that experts are predicting that Americans spend about $2 billion on candy this year. Yes, that’s right, $2 billion. About a quarter of all the candy sold annually in the U.S. is purchased for during the Halloween season.

Still, the next time I’m at the super market, I’m grabbing a big old bag of candy corn and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. After all, some things only happen once a year.