About 2,000 years ago in the area of the world that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France, lived a group
of people called the Celts. The Celts' lives revolved around growing their food, and considered the end of the year to be
the end of the harvest season. So, they celebrated new year's eve each year on October 31st with a festival called "Samhain,"
named after their Lord of the Dead (also known as the Lord of Darkness). Samhain (pronounced 'sow-in') was presided over
by Celtic priests called Druids.
Back then, winter was the time of year associated with human death. The Celts believed that on the night that marked
the end of summer and the beginning of winter, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead blurred allowing
ghosts of the dead to return to earth. Celts thought that the presence of the ghosts made it easier for the Druids, their
priests, to predict the future. These predictions were an important source of comfort and direction for the Celts during
their long, dark, frightening winters.
To celebrate Samhain, the Druids built huge sacred bonfires around which the Celts gathered to burn crops and animals
as sacrifices to their ancient gods. During the celebration, the Celts dressed up in costumes consisting of animal heads
and skins and tried to tell each other's fortunes.
The Celts eventually were conquered by the Romans, and by about the year 43 AD two Roman festivals were combined with
the Celtic Samhain festival. The first Roman festival was Feralia, a day in late October when the Romans traditionally commemorated
the passing of the dead. The second was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona
is the apple and the incorporation of this celebration into Samhain probably explains the tradition of "bobbing"
for apples practiced today on Halloween.
By 800 AD, the influence of Christianity spread into Celtic lands. In the seventh century, replace the Celtic festival
of the dead with a related, but church-sanctioned holiday, Pope Boniface IV designated November 1st as All Saints' Day, a
time to honor saints and martyrs. The combined and updated celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from
Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints' Day) and the night before it, the night of Samhain, began to be called All-hallows
Eve and, eventually, Halloween.
Halloween, as a commonly celebrated US event, truly came into its own in the very early 1920s. Parties then were primarily
for adults, with guests settling in to play mahjong, bridge or other games. Tables and walls would be decorated with a wide
array of Halloween-themed items, really setting the party's mood. The games; winners would be given prizes to take home, like
candy containers, lanterns or noisemakers. Only later did trick or treating come into vogue, with the holiday becoming then
more firmly oriented toward children.
Halloween is the quintessential American holiday, although many of the most prized items today were manufactured in Germany.
After World War I, Germany was devastated by the follies of their own foreign policy but hampered in its recovery efforts
by the Versailles Treaty. Forced to pay reparations to the victorious allies for the devastation of WWI, an outlet earlier
used assumed greater importance. Several American discount-merchandising magnates like Frank W. Woolworth and Sebastian S.
Kresge strongly encouraged German artisans at this time to use their creative expertise to craft unique and wondrous items
for export to the vast and growing American holiday market. What many consider to be the zenith of German Halloween production
in terms of variety and design is from 1919 until 1935, when the expansive tendencies of the new German Reich brought this
kind of trade to a close, not to resume until after the partition in the late 1940s. We shouldn't think of the German production
of Halloween memorabilia from this early era in modern terms. Many, if not all, of the lanterns, candy containers and figurals
were made in homes or very small firms, from either a fixed design or a mold, and all hand decorated. The overall quantity
of items produced was quite small given the conditions present at the time of their creation. Tin noisemakers of an astonishing
variety and ingenuity were made by a number of American firms. Among the most sought after tin items are those made by Bugle
Toy, a company about which little is known. Other manufacturers included Chein, Kirchhof and T. Cohn. You can find tambourines,
clangers, rattlers, ratchets and so on. Earlier tin items will have sculpted wooden handles, with later items or versions
having plastic handles. From www.halloweencollector.com
Halloween noisemakers were once an essential part of Halloween, first in the early twentieth century when pranking was
popular, then in the latter half when trick or treating had largely replaced pranking. During the pranking period, noisemakers
were often homemade and designed to startle unsuspecting neighbors; probably the most popular noisemakers at this time were
the ticktack and the rattletrap or horse fiddle (now commonly known as the rachet). When trick or treating became popular,
noisemakers largely ceased being homemade and were mass-produced in a variety of styles, nearly all featuring colorful graphics.
The earliest noisemakers were produced in Germany and were usually rattletraps of wood, often featuring a small composition
Halloween character perched atop the noisemaker. Later the toys were manufactured in the U.S., usually made of tin and wood
and later tin and plastic and produced almost entirely by four companies: J. Chein, T. Cohn, U.S. Metal Toy and especially
Kirchhof. Noisemakers included rattletraps or ratchets (in square, round and oval shapes), bells, whistles, "frying pan"
clangers, rattles (in both round and mallet styles), tambourines, clickers or "crickets" (which were often a traditional
toad shape with Halloween graphics applied to the existing form), squeakers and horns (including "blow-outs"). From
The Halloween Encyclopedia by Lisa Morton