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A Brief History of Halloween

September 29, 2023

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As you head into Halloween, we thought it would be fun to share with you some history about how the most common traditions we know today likely originated. Ever wonder where the traditions of Jack-o-Lanterns, trick-or-treating and everything in-between came? Here are some interesting facts about the holiday:

Costumes - The origination of Halloween is still foggy at best. The start of it seems to have begun through a mix of Pagan, Christian and possibly even Egyptian rituals. Historians believe that the actual celebration of Halloween mimics the Celtic’s ritualistic harvest festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-win). This was a celebration of their new year on November 1. And it marked the time of year when seasons changed from summer to dark, cold winter. They believed the boundary between the world of the living and the world of the dead became so thin between October 31 and November 1 that people could connect with the dead. It’s because of this that people wore masks and costumes after dark and at bonfires so they could hide from spirits that may have returned. Hence, the possible origin of the spooky Halloween costumes!

Day of Halloween - For the next few hundreds of years, Christianity spread through the Celtic lands altering the traditions and later designating November 1 as All Saints Day. This was a day to honor all saints and its celebrations incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. All Hallows Eve became the name of the evening before and later became known as Halloween.

Trick-or-treating – This is likely rooted from centuries ago when people went door-to-door dressed in scary costumes asking for food and drink in exchange for antics. This was known as “mumming.” And again, centuries later poor people were believed to visit homes of the wealthy, begging for soul cakes in exchange for prayers for the souls of the home’s dead relatives. This was known as “souling.” Both of these traditions are thought to be backgrounds of what we now call trick-or-treating. However, trick-or-treating as we know it today didn’t begin in America until the 1920’s when youngsters started going door-to-door to threaten to pull pranks if they weren’t given candy. It wasn’t until the 1950’s that this tradition became widely accepted throughout America.

Jack-o-Lanterns - Halloween’s symbolic Jack-o-Lanterns trace back to Ireland and Scotland and originally started as spooky faces carved out of turnips. They were placed in windows and on porches to scare away evil spirits. As the Irish immigrated to America and brought this tradition with them, pumpkins were more readily available, so they began using those instead. The way we decorate in orange and black is most likely tied to orange representing the strength and endurance of autumn’s changing leaves, overlapped with black symbolizing the impending winter and its promise of death.

And that’s a very brief history of Halloween! Add a little embellishment to it and you could create a very, spooky story for the kids that enjoy a little fright with their night.


Happy haunting!




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