The evolution of the Halloween holiday

Amy Durazo

This past weekend, I watched in amusement as the Courts erupted into the craziest fiesta I’ve ever been a part of. Mad scientists, Madonnas, even the Mighty Ducks squad – Coach Bombay included – ran wild, letting their IDs overshadow their egos in honor of one special night: the almighty Halloween.

The idea for this celebration seems ludicrous. Over time, traditional ghost and goblin costumes have been replaced with nearly anything under the sun. Halloween has become a college student’s dream come true: anything can happen and anything surely will.

Yes, the holiday seems to be geared toward candy-crazed kids and those old enough to drink but young enough to still pull off a costume. But what exactly is Halloween? (Besides an occasion for girls to wear next to nothing and for guys to thank their lucky stars that such a day exists.) It’s time now for a schooling in this ancient and not-so-exciting-when-it-boils-down-to-it celebration.

Back in the day, long before costume specialty stores existed, the Celts were roaming around Europe, planning one of the world’s oldest traditions – the celebration of their new year on Nov. 1. However, they agreed that the night before this milestone event was even more important. They believed that, on this particular evening, the dead returned to Earth as the boundary between the living and the deceased disappeared. Spooky.

In an attempt to qualm the spirits of the dead – or zombies if you will – the Celts sacrificed animals around a fire and dressed in fur skins for the shindig.

Eventually, the Romans waltzed in and conquered nearly the entire race, thereby adapting the holiday to fit their needs. They used the occasion to commemorate their goddess of fruit and trees – Pomona – whose symbol is the apple. Hence, bobbing for apples.

Centuries later, the tradition was altered once again, this time at the Christians’ discretion. Nov. 1 was designated as All Saints’ Day, which was more church-appropriate for them. It was also referred to as All-Hallows in reference to the Middle English language. Thus, All-Hallows eve was the night before All Saints’ Day. Hallows eve … Halloween. Now we’re getting somewhere.

As Halloween celebrations continued throughout the Middle Ages, Renaissance, Restoration and into the 1800s, the English derived the idea of placing bowls of food outside their doors to appease the dead spirits as well as wearing masks when leaving their homes in the hopes of being mistaken for a fellow spirit. As these people migrated to America, they brought their traditions with them, spreading the Halloween joy further into the Western World.

These people also helped create Hallmark, which served to add to the hype of the strange holiday. It quickly became the country’s second most commercialized holiday (behind Christmas) and adapted from a celebration of the dead into a celebration of candy corn, shaving cream, smashed jack-o-lanterns and the harassment of little kids for their goody-filled pillow cases.

There is one final addition to the holiday that no Villanova student would be complete without. The monumental invention of the school bus allowed ‘Novans to participate in one of the most important rituals Halloween has to offer.

Ticket parties at the Barn.

Down the road, when you are experiencing the joys of raising a child and can’t decide on dressing your little one as a pumpkin or a witch, remember to take the route that will incorporate the best aspects of each celebrated Halloween routine. Put your kid in a dirty animal skin, give ’em a few candy apples and some Snickers bars and send them to the Barn to get wasted.

And don’t worry, they barely even check IDs there.