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Halloween: Trick or tradition

What is Halloween?

Halloween is often associated with kids in costumes, trick-or-treating and scary movies. But where did these traditions come from? The sometimes-silly holiday actually has deep religious roots.

According to History.com, 2,000 years ago, the Celts started what we now recognize as Halloween. This group of people lived in the areas now known as Ireland, the United Kingdom and France. They celebrated their New Year on Nov. 1.

This time was the turn of the season, marking the end of the harvest and the beginning of winter. To many, the move into the colder season also brought more death than the rest of the year. This sparked the belief that on New Year’s Eve, Oct. 31, known to them as All Hallows Eve, the separation between the dead and the living was blurred.

That blurred line made it possible for priests to perform ceremonies to receive prophecies about how the upcoming year would go. During uncertain times, these prophecies were an important comfort to the Celts. They would spend the night tending to huge fires, dressing up in animal skins to ward off ghosts and reading one another’s fortunes. The animal skins eventually evolved into the costumes we love today, and All Hallows Eve turned into Halloween.

Many people recognize Day of the Dead as a similar tradition. Although they happen around the same time, the holidays are very different. Day of the Dead, or Día de Los Muertos, also has thousands of years of history. The holiday is celebrated on Nov. 1 and 2 — All Saints Day and All Souls Day. The holiday shares the belief with the Celts that the veil between the living and dead is thinner than ever during this time.

On these days, Mexican families celebrate their deceased loved ones and erect alters to welcome loved ones back to the realm of the living. They celebrate and remember ones who have come before them to keep their spirit alive in the community. Keeping their loved one’s memories alive helps soften the harshness of death and unites families on both sides of the veil. This is an important cultural time that has since spread from Mexico to other parts of Latin America.

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