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Halloween Makes a Return to Chicago

Courtesy of Martin Brigden (Flickr CC0)

Halloween is chilly, spooky, and full of fun. This year Halloween will infest the town with common activities like haunted houses, horror movie screenings, parades, and a large variety of scary fun. Multiple events will pop up throughout the city, including pumpkin patches and corn mazes which will be available for parents and younger audiences who might not be ready for such activities.

Although Halloween is a time for spooky fun a lot of people do not know the history of this holiday. It’s a tradition as old as time that represents the relationship between the living and the dead. This tradition started as rituals that involved the transition of summer to winter.

Every civilization back in the old days always asked the question where do people go when they pass away and how should the living honor those who die? Today we mostly associate Halloween with trick or treating, goblins, ghouls, and fun but this was not how it was originally celebrated. This can be traced back to the first Celtic festival of Samhain.

This festival was a celebration of the dead and the end of the harvest season in the cold dark times. Usually, this was celebrated with a bonfire and communication with the dead. The Celts believed that because the world would get colder and darker that allowed the dead to roam the earth once again. In their eyes, this would only apply to the dead that did not pass on to the afterlife.

Courtesy of Crystal (Flickr CC0)

It has been influenced and interfered with a lot. Christians used the day as a time of extra prayer and fasting in preparation for what is yet to come. They called this day All Hallows Eve which is a name you might have heard. Another way that it was influenced was through a practice called “Souling” this was a ritual that involved a whole town knocking on people’s doors and asking for soul cake in return for prayers. This sounds very familiar to what we do now.

Another familiarity that we can relate to is the meaning behind costumes. The reason we wear costumes now is that it was believed that if you dressed up as an entity then the dead won’t be able to recognize people. The way that they accomplished this was by slaughtering animals to make masks.

Now the next time people go to Party City to pick out their new skeleton costume they will have something new to think about.

When Halloween came to North America British settlers continued to practice these traditions including Christmas and Easter which were already established. As Halloween kept on changing so did the view of the tradition. Lots of people in the 1900s took advantage of its popularity and decided to market the practice to make money off of the idea. During this time in America money needed to be made to stay in a good position economically and be the dominant power in the world.

Now that everyone knows the basic history of Halloween they can have a new perspective on the holiday as a whole. Ghosts and ghouls might be the first thing that you think of but remember that history is much deeper than what it might seem.

With all that being said do not miss the events that will be scattered throughout Chicago. It will be a fun spooky time to spend with friends and family. The celebrations might not be accurate to what the tradition was originally but that does not mean you can’t have a little fun. Get into the Halloween spirit because it is on its way.

Written by Esteban Ruiz
Edited by Sheena Robertson


Time Out: Your guide to Halloween in Chicago 2022

World History Encyclopedia: History of Halloween

Library of Congress: The Origins of Halloween Traditions

Top and Featured Image Courtesy of Martin Brigden‘s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Crystal‘s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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