Day Four of our Five Days of Halloween celebration looks at the history of this ancient holiday.
The origins of Halloween are approximately 2,000 years old, originating with a pre-Christian Celtic festival called Samhain (pronounced “sah-win”). Celebrated at the end of the harvest season, Samhain was a time to prepare for winter and honor the dead. This was not a holiday for “devil worship” (ancient Celts did not worship anything resembling the Christian devil) and it was not until many years later that supernatural entities came to be associated with the day.
As Halloween traditions grew over the centuries, people eventually began dressing up in costume and trick-or-treating. Mass rituals for soliciting food were common and it is suspected the practices evolved from “mumming,” “guising” and “souling.” These were different methods used for disguising oneself and going door-to-door when asking for food, sometimes wearing costumes to do short performances.
While trick-or-treating didn’t start in the United States until the 1940s, the act of playing Halloween tricks was common by the late 1800s. The pranks started out relatively harmless with tipping over outhouses and egging houses, but by the 1920s, they were becoming far more serious and dressing up to go trick-or-treating was encouraged as an alternative.
For more information on the History of Halloween, watch this short video from the History Channel:
The History of Halloween by Benjamin Radford was a primary source used for this blog post.
Wood Lake Nature Center was one of the first nature centers built in the Twin Cities.
Dedicated in 1971, it was once a recreational lake surrounded by homes.
The lake was drained of most of its water in the 1950s.
Friends of Wood Lake (FOWL) was formed in 1991 and thanks to their advocacy and fundraising efforts, Wood Lake thrives in Richfield, Minnesota.
Approximately 72,000 visitors enjoy the 150-acre area annually.
In the poem The Song of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the grandmother of Hiawatha is named Nokomis. Inspired by this poem, the City of Minneapolis renamed Lake Amelia “Lake Nokomis” in 1910.
Originally only about 5 feet deep, the lake was dredged in 1914 to increase its depth to approximately 15 feet. When the dredging was complete in 1917, the lake’s surface area had been reduced from 300 acres to 200 acres, the surrounding marshlands and wetlands had been filled with dredged materials, and the swimming beach on the northwestern shore had been created.
In 1940, the inventor of the first Amphibious Respiratory Unit (later known as SCUBA) was tested in Lake Nokomis. The underwater rebreather allowed divers to move under the water’s surface without producing bubbles. This device led Dr. Christian Lambertsen to be known as The Father of American Combat Swimming. Dr. Lambertsen’s contributions to covert underwater swimming operations would continue for nearly forty years.
In 1973, concerns over water quality began to arise. Studies found that the development of the lake and its surrounding marshlands and wetlands had degraded its natural filtration system. Restoration efforts began in 1996 and continue today. An 8 acre marsh on the southwest bay of the lake has been created, expanded and modified in the years since. Hopefully these efforts will preserve it for the future.
For more on Lake Nomomis, visit: