History of Halloween



Jack-o-lanterns are carved every Halloween to light the way.

In 2017, an estimated 41.1 million kids between the age of 5-14 went trick-or-treating. 2018 is sure not to change. With trick-or-treaters walking the streets and parties lasting all night, where did Halloween come from?

According to History.com, Halloween is believed to have begun around 2,000 years ago, in what is now Ireland, northern France, and the United Kingdom. The fall holiday began as a Celtic festival called Samhain (pronounced sow-in). It marked the end of summer and harvest and the beginning winter. The Celts also believed that on the evening before the new year, the boundary between the living and dead became broken. So, on the evening of October 31, people celebrated Samhain, as it was believed that the souls of the dead returned to earth.

Celts believed that the returning of the dead made it easier for Druids, or Celtic priests to predict the future. These predictions were important for people who were dependent on the natural world, as they gave comfort and direction during the winter. For the event, Druids would build sacred bonfires. At these bonfires, people would burn crops and animals as sacrifices to Celtic gods.

By 43 A.D, the Roman Empire had conquered most Celtic land. In 400 years of Roman rule, two Roman festivals were incorporated with Samhain. The first, Feralia, was celebrated in late October. It was traditionally celebrated for the commemoration of the dead. The second, Pomona, was to honor the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple. This might explain the “bobbing of apples” today.

Trick-or-treating was an ancient method that Americans used to get money. They borrowed it from Irish and English traditions. They would dress up in costumes and go house to house asking for food or money. Trick-or-treating dates back to the early All Souls Day parades in England. Poor citizens would beg for money and food and families would give them pastries called “soul cakes”. Dressing up in a costume for Halloween has both European and Celtic roots.

By the 1920s and 1930s, Halloween had become a secular, but community centered holiday, with parades and town-wide Halloween parties as the featured entertainment. Despite the best efforts of many schools and communities, vandalism began to plague some celebrations in many communities during this time. Between 1920 and 1950, the trick-or-treating tradition began again.

Halloween wasn’t always an American tradition. It actually came to America. It was mostly common in Maryland and other Southern states. The first celebrations were called “play parties,” public events were held to celebrate the harvest, where neighbors would share stories of the dead, tell each other’s fortunes, dance, and sing.

Caleb Nash, a 7th grader believes Halloween movies boosted its popularity. “Movies helped Halloween gain popularity. Movies bring Halloween lots of money.” 33 students were asked about the history of Halloween and nobody had answers.

Nowadays, parents have their kids roam the neighborhood in search of the best candy. Americans roughly spend about 6 billion dollars on Halloween. This could be on candy, costumes, decorations, etc. However, in some states, it is illegal to trick-or-treat if you are over the age of 12. This does not stop people from buying goods for Halloween, as one quarter of all candy sold in America is for Halloween. According to Harris Poll, Halloween is America’s third favorite holiday. Halloween is a classic holiday with lots of stories to tell. From ghost stories to goblins, Halloween is sure to be a good time.