Jack-o’-lanterns originate from an Irish folklore about a blacksmith that was denied entrance to both hell and heaven. To remember the story, Irish of the past would carve frightening faces and place a burning piece of coal inside to scare away evil spirits.

Halloween history: from Irish to student traditions

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The moment October rolls around, stores love to display unearthly decorations for Halloween festivities. However, the playful celebration of Halloween has changed over the course of time. The holiday has transformed from an eerie time of the year to a chance where everybody can feel a sense of youthful exuberance and mischief. 

Halloween originated 2,000 years ago from Celtic festivals of Samhain in Ireland. During this time, Oct. 31 was synonymous with death and believing that unwelcome spirits would return, the Celts tried to ward them off by wearing costumes consisting of animal heads and skin. To placate the spirits, food was prepared on banquet tables. Centuries later, the tradition changed to something more kid-friendly: trick-or-treating. Today, trick-or-treating is practiced primarily among younger kids, but there are still teenagers who participate in this activity. 

“Although I probably can’t do it this year, I always go trick-or-treating with my family and, sometimes, my friends,” sophomore Madison Dang said. “Looking back, I never had a theme or pattern for my costumes. My costumes were usually just random things that I liked at the time.”

Handing out food was not only reserved for the spirits back then. It extended to those who were poor and hungry. In exchange for prayers for deceased relatives, people shared “soul cakes,” small, round pastries topped with raisins with those who were starving around Halloween. Although soul cakes are not common now, many students still love to purchase Halloween-themed sweets while others bake and share their homemade treats instead.

“When it is specifically Halloween, I like to create themed foods like muffins,” junior Kassidy Wong said. “I [would often] share what I make with others and would, sometimes, watch classic Halloween movies too.”

Halloween actually has a long history in the entertainment industry. During the holiday, the industry often capitalizes on the spooky atmosphere by releasing a variety of horror movies. An ultimate classic among students includes the Halloween franchise directed by John Carpenter. The success of the franchise helped set a precedent for more horror movies, like Friday the 13th, Scream, and Nightmare on Elm Street, to come. 

“I don’t really do anything for Halloween since I like to stay home all day,” junior Danny Thach said. “If I am feeling really festive, I might go watch classic Halloween movies or Halloween-themed episodes from different shows.”

Due to the pandemic, certain traditions, such as trick-or-treating, will not be widely practiced this year. Nevertheless, there are still activities students can do while social distancing. Having Halloween watch parties and baking will always be an option. Students can also get creative and decorate pumpkins or play multiplayer horror games with friends.

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