An Abridged History of Halloween

So, it’s Halloween. How did the tradition of children dressing up and knocking on strangers doors just to get candy? Why do we say “trick or treat” as if there will actually be a trick instead of the treat? Does anyone else wonder about how strange it is or is it just me?

Well if you are like me and curious, here is the abridged version of how Halloween came to be the holiday we know today. 

It all started out as a Celtic tradition called Samhain where natives would dress up in costumes and stand by bonfires in order to ward off ghosts. This originally marked the end of summer and harvest and the start of winter. 

Around 43 A.D., the Roman Empire conquered a lot of Celtic territory and led to the merging of the two traditions, Samhain and Feralia. Feralia was a Roman holiday commemorating the dead, and once merged with Samhain, became the overall ridding of the dead or spirits. 

Then in the seventh century A.D., the Catholic Church established All Saints Day, which celebrated Christian martyrs and saints. The night before All Saints Day fell into the tradition of Samhain and Feralia, and was deemed “All Hallows Eve,” and eventually—Halloween.

So how did it get to America? As these traditions were brought over from England into the new colonies, it merged and meshed with a bunch of other ethinic cultures and traditions. The idea of ‘play parties,’ events celebrating harvest, soon came about. During play parties people told ghost stories around a big bonfire and food from the bountiful harvest such as apples and pumpkins. 

Coming from European traditions, people started to dress up and go house to house begging for food and money, this soon became what we know as ‘trick or treating.’  Soon people started making it more about community and being together, so there were parties where people dressed up and the more scary things came about from that, i.e. ghost stories and eventually scary movies. The rest is history. Halloween in the USA grew from our open doors and the welcoming of other cultures. 

Now that you know how this spooky Halloween came to be, go get in your costume and beg for people to give you food. Happy Halloween!