Halloween Has Evolved Significantly Since the Middle Ages


Halloween has evolved significantly since the Middle Ages. Author Kurt Anderson examines the several different mystical ways that Americans appear to deceive themselves over Halloween. He explores the concept in his new book titled, “Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire.”

The author stated that when his daughters reached their early 20s they were shocked when he told them that adults did not always dress up in costumes on Halloween. He added that it was not long ago that Halloween became an annual ritual for adults.

Anderson, a baby boomer, explained that homosexual men first started to dress up in glitzy parades across New York City and the San Francisco Bay area during the 1980s. Then the heterosexual community then began to dress up for Halloween in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and other cities and towns across the rest of the United States.

The National Retail Federation reported that 48 percent of American adults plan to wear decorative costumes during the 2017 Halloween season. It is predicted that this season will hit an all-time high. Nine billion dollars will be spent this October. Eighty-six dollars will come from the average household. Sixteen percent of Americans plan to put on a costume on their pet, which is equivalent to 50 million people across the U.S.

The New York Post predicts that in 2018, or 2019 the majority of adults will dress up on All Hallows Eve. The possible explanation of why so many adults are dressing up is because many millennials do not believe that they are adults.

Halloween’s Evolution

The yearly holiday celebrated every October 31, originates from an ancient European tradition. The History Channel stated that the ghoulish night was originally an age-old Celtic festival called Samhain. On the annual autumn festival, Celtic pagans would wear costumes and light bonfire to frighten off ghosts.

Pope Gregory 3rd declared November 1 as All Saints Day to honor every saint in the Holy Roman Catholic Church. The order came down from Rome in the 8th Century A.D. Certain traditions from Samhain were incorporated into All Saints Day. The evening before the church holiday would be called All Hallows Eve, and then Halloween.

The History Channel said that through the course of over several centuries the holiday became a way to usher in the new season or winter. In many different cultures and nationalities across the globe, people celebrate the event by wearing different costumes, attending festive Halloween parties, and collecting and eating sweet pieces of candy.

However, Halloween in New England may conjure up some dark memories in one quaint waterfront city to the north of the Greater Boston area. The Salem Witch Trials occurred in between the years 1692-93, then again in 1699. Over 200 people were accused of practicing witchcraft and 20 of them were executed.

Another name for witchcraft was Devils or Black magic in the late 17th Century. Jane Pauley reported that on Oct. 29, 1692, the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony ordered the special court that was created to try witches to be disbanded.

Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel dedicated the Witch Trial Memorial in Salem on Aug 1992. The dedication was to mark the 300 year anniversary of the Salem Witch Trials. The historic court documents are housed in the Peabody Essex Museum. Many tourists are fascinated with the Salem Witch Museum that is dedicated to the crimes in the urban waterfront community of 1692, and 1699, according to the Smithsonian.

Millions of tourists visit Salem, also known as the Witch City, in October because of the witchcraft trials. Historic Salem is an example of how Halloween has evolved since the Middle Ages.

By John A. Federico
Edited by Cathy Milne


New York Post: Sad Millennials have ruined Halloween
CBS News: This week on “Sunday Morning” (Oct. 29)
Smithsonian: A Brief History of the Salem Witch Trials One town’s strange journey from paranoia to pardon

Featured Image Courtesy of daveynin’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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