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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

Editorial: History behind the ghostly holiday

Eleanor Gentry
Victor E. is dressed as a ghost hold a pumpkin basket. The Northern Star Editorial board wishes everyone a “Happy Howl-oween!” (Eleanor Gentry | Northern Star)

How did we go from carving turnips and frightening evil spirits to carving pumpkins and creating Jack-o’-Lanterns? 

Halloween traditions, such as going around our neighborhoods asking for candy, dressing up in creative costumes and carving pumpkins that sit on our front doorstep, are reflections of a holiday formerly known as the Celtic festival of Samhain.

Samhain was created to celebrate the end of the summer harvest where people carved turnips and wore costumes to scare off ghosts, according to the Library of Congress.

Pope Gregory III designated that  All Saints Day would fall on Nov. 1 as a time to honor saints, according to the Library of Congress. The day before that “holy day” eventually turned into All Hallows Eve, or “Halloween” which falls on Oct. 31

Samhain is similar to different spiritual holidays throughout the world today, such as Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). 

Día de los Muertos is a two-day Mexican celebration from Nov. 1 to Nov. 2. Similar to Samhain, the holiday is a time where celebrators believe spirits are the closest to us.  

Día de los Muertos is a holiday that dates back to the Aztecs in central Mexico. The Aztecs would use skulls to honor their dead, a tradition still seen today. 

To celebrate Día de los Muertos, people will create altars, ofrendas, in their homes. Each ofrenda is unique, as they include favorite items, foods and photos of the people they are honoring, according to History.

Luis Santos Rivas, program director of the Latino Resource Center, explained what some students do to celebrate Día De Los Muertos. 

“One of the things we do here in the LRC is that different organizations, they create their own altar, they bring pictures of families and then they put some food, that is a part of the tradition too,” Rivas said. 

The Latino Resource Center will be hosting many events in celebration of Día de los Muertos, but here’s a few events students should keep an eye out for. 

Día de los Angelitos is an event where people can fill an altar with toys as a way to reunite with children who have departed starting at 12:01 a.m. Nov. 1, . 

At noon Nov. 2, the center will celebrate Día de los Muertos. This celebration will consist of a parade, dancing and food honoring the lives of those who have passed.


With themed events all day Tuesday, Halloween will be quite busy at NIU. 

Ellington’s will be serving Halloween-themed foods such as “Mummy Meatballs,” “Happy Halloween pasta salad” and pumpkin cheesecake brownies from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. 

From 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., the Recreation Center will be hosting  Well-o-Ween Cooking Demo: Franken-Stir Fry. Students will be making stir-fried chicken and veggies with a side of rice. 

To end the night, Outdoor Adventures will host a campfire at 8 p.m. near the West Lagoon. Students can participate in a bonfire, hot drinks, scary stories and a costume contest.

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