HONOLULU (KHON2) — In the United States, Halloween is a definitive tradition that many people groups have come to adore and celebrate.
From the fun candies and decorations to the, sometimes, extravagant costumes that people wear, Halloween has become a part of the heart of how many Americans understand the concept of Autumn.
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Not everyone celebrates Halloween. It is a pagan holiday; therefore, many countries that were colonized by Rome and forced to convert to Christianity have laid down their Halloween traditions, customs and beliefs.
Finding this out made KHON2.com want to delve a bit deeper into this iconic American tradition to find out where it comes from and how it spread.
Roots in European indigenous religions
The Celts, who originated in Western Central Europe, are the progenitors of the Halloween concept. They spread into France, Iberia (Spain) and the British and Irish Isles throughout the Roman Empire period.
The Celts were a thorn in the side of Rome as they were constantly staging raids into the Empire. This caused a great of trouble for Rome who ended finding its Empire fraying.
With the introduction of the new religion Christianity by Constantine, he embarked on a mission to ensure that Roman citizens forsook their traditional religions — which had been allowed and prospered during Rome’s most prosperous years — and embrace the new one.
One of the traditions that was in peril was Halloween. The Celtic festival of Samhain (Gaelic word pronounced “SAH-win”) was considered Pagan by the new, at the time, standards of the Empire. It was a time when Celts would light bonfires.
They would also wear costumes. The costumes were meant to fool the bad spirits and ward off ghosts. The idea was that if the ghost can’t recognize you, then they cannot hurt you.
Approximately 500 years after the creation and expansion of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire, Pope Gregory III designated Nov. 1 as a time to honor saints known as All Saint’s Day.
This led to the integration of Samhain with All Saint’s Day. This is why Samhain is now known as All Hallows Eve, or Halloween.
It’s widely believed that the church leaders from this time period were attempting to replace the Celtic festival of Samhain with a church-sanctioned holiday that maintained Catholic supremacy.
Halloween comes to Hawaiʻi
Before Halloween could make it Hawaii, it had to come to the United States first. So, in the 1840s, Irish immigrants fleeing the Irish potato famine. It was during this time that Irish immigrants began perpetrating pranks that included tipping over outhouses and unhinging fence gates.
These pranks were in retaliation for not providing the food stuffs that they would ask for people to give them.
The Jack-o’-lantern carved into pumpkins is a distinctly American addition to the holiday since pumpkins are indigenous to North America. However, the Irish are credited with the concept of the carved face.
In the Irish folklore legend, a drunk person known as Jack tricked Satan into climbing up a tree. When Satan climbed the tree, Jack carved an image into the truck that trapped Satan in the tree. This allowed him to strike a deal with Satan that would prevent him from collecting Jack’s soul upon his death.
While he escaped the clutches of Hell, Jack was not accepted into Heaven which meant he was doomed to walk the earth as a spirit. Hence, he carried a turnip full of embers to light his way. When this tradition came to the U.S., the turnip was replaced with a pumpkin.
But it wasn’t until 1921 that there were an official Halloween celebration Anoka, Minnesota. This town ended up creating the holiday that is celebrated in modern times as a way of occupying the time of local high school students who loved the pranks inspired by Irish immigrants.
There are some resources that said Halloween was officially celebrated in Hawaii in 1989. However, a bit of research shows that Hula’s Bar & Lei Stand began creating massive Hulaween celebrations as early as 1974.
According to Jack Law, owner and operator of Hula’s Bar & Lei Stand, Hulaween was one of the first celebrations they hosted in their first year of business.
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So, that’s the long and the short of it. Halloween has a long tradition that dates back thousands of years. It was a time when the indigenous peoples of Western Central Europe celebrated as a way of interpreting and interacting with the world around them.