How Did This Favorite American Celebration Come Into Existence?

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REUTERS/Shannon StapletonA woman dressed as a witch walks along the street during Halloween celebrations in Port Washington, New York, October 31, 2007.

While Halloween is popularly celebrated in the United States, not so many people know that the holiday originated from Europe.

According to the National Retail Federation, Americans are expected to spend a total of $9 billion this year, including expenses on Halloween costumes, decorations, and candies for trick-or-treating. With the projected collective expenses of the American people for the Oct. 31 holiday, there is no denying that Halloween is, indeed, a popular celebration in this country.

However, not so many people know that Halloween is not a homegrown American tradition as it originated from the ancient Gaelic/Celtic Festival, the Samhain, which celebrated the end of the harvest season. As the ancient Gaels/Celts believed that the wall dividing the physical and spiritual world was thin, they would set up dinner tables for the spirits and light bonfires to ward off the evil ones so that their crops would not be damaged.

Halloween is not the celebration that it is known for today if participants did not wear costumes. However, this tradition, although highly commercialized these days, was also a part of the Samhain celebration. As the Gaels considered the Samhain as the time of year when spirits make their way to the physical world, they wore masks made of animal skins believing that they could trick the roaming spirits into thinking that they, too, were spirits and would spare them from harm.

The popular trick-or-treating Halloween…

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