The history of Halloween: Through generations of Harrison High School students


Lily Vallieres

The origins of Halloween date back to 2,000 years ago, to the ancient Celtic Festival of Samhain. The Celts celebrated this festival by lighting bonfires and wearing costumes which were made to fend off ghosts. Post the conquering of major Celtic territory by the Roman Empire, Christianity had spread further across Europe. The Celtic Festival transitioned to All Souls’ Day as the spread of Christianity progressed. The tradition continued to embrace Celtic ways, honouring bonfires as well as featuring parades, and dressing up as saints, angels, and devils. All Souls’ Day was also known as All-Hallows or All-Hallowmas. The night before the festival was considered as All-Hallows Eve, which eventually turned into Halloween.                                              

Subsequently, Americans inherited these European traditions and began dressing up in fun costumes and going around to every house in their neighbourhood asking for food or money; hence the birth of today’s “trick-or-treat.” As time went on, these traditions became more and more popular for younger generations and Halloween parties became one of the most common ways of celebrating. The get-togethers involved the telling of scary ghost stories, pranks, and even witchcraft. Parties grew and parades became town-wide. Trick-or-treating became immensely popular as, for the most part, it was inexpensive and appealing to parents as, in theory, handing out treats to children would prevent them from playing tricks in the neighbourhood. Americanized Halloween traditions spread nationwide and continue to bring Americans together every year on October 31st. A recent study done in Clarksburg, W.Va concluded that 71% of Americans planned on celebrating Halloween this year. 

At Harrison High School, students have been passing on the chilling Halloween spirit for many generations. Harrison High alumni, Peter Goldey, in the graduating class of 1989 claims that the community celebrated Halloween very similarly to how we younger generations celebrate today. Windows downtown would get painted to show Halloween spirit and the majority of homes were also decorated. A common tradition for students was that kids from the same neighbourhood would gather in one house and watch scary movies while enjoying their collected candy. Mr Goldey affirms two key differences between how Halloween was celebrated just a few decades ago and how Halloween was celebrated this past Monday: “People would trick-or-treat in their own neighbourhood so there weren’t massive crowds of people in one place. I remember some people wearing costumes to school, but not so much. However, most costumes were homemade.” Many of these traditions have evolved into newer variations of Harrison High School traditions. 

In the Harrison community, Halloween is a holiday that is equally as fun for students as it is for teachers. This year at Harrison High, teachers outdid themselves with the fun and spooky spirit of Halloween. Our math department specifically, with their Pac-Man-themed costumes and classroom/hallway decorations, really brought on the lively energy. Seeing teachers participate in the Halloween fun is a Harrison tradition that is always something to look forward to every October 31st. 

Current senior, Sabrina Kalanz, claims that her favorite Harrison High School Halloween memory would without a doubt be, “taking a Polaroid with my friends when we were wearing costumes. It was really nice because it’s a memory I can physically keep with me.” Every Halloween the faculty presents students with a costume contest with many different categories and opportunities to win a prize. This event is a wonderful opportunity for students to create their own Polaroid picture memories. 

This past Monday, teachers and faculty members from all different departments participated in the holiday celebration by either dressing up, decorating their classroom, handing out candy and other goodies to students, or a collection of everything. Students participated in the celebration by entering the costume contest, dressing up, going trick-or-treating with friends in Harrison, and having fun and extremely memorable Halloween parties. Although certain opinions on parties may be controversial, they are a Halloween tradition that strengthens the Harrison community by uniting lower and upperclassmen and bringing together students from different school districts. Many seniors, and students in general, can agree that dressing up in fun costumes and Halloween parties are traditions that should definitely be carried on in college and even later in life. The Halloween spirit at Harrison High has an enlightening energy that should continue to be passed down from class to class for many generations to come. 

Congratulations to the winners of the costume contest and Go Huskies!!