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Ireland is believed to be the birthplace of the Halloween festival. The Irish tradition dates back to the eighteenth century.
Halloween takes its roots from the old Celtic festival, Samhain Eve, when it was believed that the link between the worlds of the living and dead was at its strongest. Some scholars believe that Samhain (pronounced sow-in) was the Celtic new year. Samhain means Summer’s End and was essentially a harvest festival and a time to ask for supernatural support to get through the coming winter.
Many of the Celtic Halloween traditions live on in Ireland today and were brought to America by Irish immigrants in the nineteenth century.
Nowadays, Halloween has grown to become the second-largest commercial holiday in the United States.
The legend of Jack O’lantern also goes back to the eighteenth century.
The legend is that an Irish blacksmith called Jack was denied entry to Heaven after he has was found to have colluded with the Devil. He was condemned to wander the Earth and his only light was a lump of burning coal inside a hollowed-out turnip. The villagers believed that placing a Jack O’lantern in their window would keep the damned soul of the wandering blacksmith away.
When the Irish immigrants arrived in America and tried to carry on the tradition they found there were not enough turnips and so they resorted to using pumpkins instead.
In Ireland and England, people would dress in ghost and goblin costumes to confuse the spirits that they believed wandered the Earth on this night so that they would not think they were human and leave them alone.