Halloween originated around two thousand years ago, from the Celtic celebration taken place on Samhain (October 31 to November 1). It marked the end of harvest season and new beginnings. Black represented the “death” of summer, and orange symbolized the autumn harvest season, which is why orange and black are popular and traditional around Halloween. People would also light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts. Fast forward some centuries later, several Christian popes tried to replace pagan holidays such as Samhain with their own religious beliefs. By 1000 A.D., All Saints’ Day, or All Hallows, honored the saints on November 1, which made October 31 the evening of All Hallows Eve, and then shortened to Halloween because evening was also written as “‘e’en.”
Pumpkin carving originated in Ireland using turnips. The tradition was supposedly based on a legend about a man named “Stingy Jack,” who continuously trapped the devil. He would only let him go on condition that Jack was to never go to Hell. But when Jack did die, he learned Heaven didn’t want his soul either, so he was forced to wander Earth as a ghost for eternity. The devil gave Jack a lump of burning coal in a carved-out turnip to light his way. Local people had started to carve scary faces into their own turnips to frighten evil spirits away.
Trick-or-treating has generally three theories to which it came from. The first theory is one of the simpler ones. It’s believed that during Samhain, Celtic people left food out to satisfy and make peace with the spirits traveling Earth at night. Somewhere over time, people started to dress as the unearthly beings in exchange for food and drinks.
The second theory suggests that it comes from the Scottish practice of guising (disguising oneself in a fancy dress, usually with a mask, and visiting to people’s houses, especially on Halloween), which is a non-religious version of “souling” (practice of giving and receiving Soul cakes – small round spiced cakes, to celebrate and commemorate the dead). During the Middle ages, children and poor adults would usually collect money and food from local homes, and got prayers for the dead on All Souls’ (day of prayer and remembrance of all the faithful who passed) day in return. Guisers dropped prayers in favor of non-religious practices with the inclusions of jokes, songs, and tricks.
The third theory suggests that trick-or-treating stems from “belsnickling”, which is a German-American Christmas tradition. Children would dress up in a costume and would visit their neighbors to see if they could identify who was in the costume. Sometimes, if the neighbors couldn’t guess who was who, the children would be rewarded with treats or food.
The act of going door to door had been popular for many years and for many traditions of different beliefs, but it wasn’t until the mid-twentieth century that candy was the usual handout. Before then, fruits, nuts, coins, and toys were likely to be handed out. Trick-or-treating became especially popular in the nineteen-fifties, so it inspired candy factories to make individually wrapped candies. People were still using other things though, like food, until around the 1970s, when parents didn’t like anything that wasn’t wrapped in fear of anything dangerous.
Decorating. As we now know , Halloween can be traced back to the Celtic celebrations. The Celts believed the spirits of the recently deceased would return to bother and menace the living, so they would light bonfires, and it’s believed that’s where the idea of lighting candles and fires on Halloween came from. By the early 1900s, Halloween became quite popular, although it wasn’t always a kid friendly holiday. During this time, it was often just an excuse for adults to throw a party, and of course, to decorate. From 1912 to 1934, the Dennison Paper Company published a yearly guide, “Dennison’s Bogie Book.” It was a sort of hybrid of a book and catalog. It was filled with suggestions and ideas for throwing the best Hallowen party. In their 1920 edition, “ When your guests arrive the door should swing open apparently unaided and the hall should be entirely dark, except for a few very faint green lights that may be followed to the dressing room.” Most of Dennison’s decorations were made to be thrown away, often made of paper. It wasn’t until recently that people started to keep their Halloween decor, just like they would with their Christmas ones.
The history of Halloween is old and sometimes varying, but in the end, it’s the holiday a lot of people wait on year after year. There’s still a lot more history and plenty of cool little facts people usually don’t know, but it’s interesting to know where holidays/traditions come from.
-Mitchell, Nancy. Halloween Decorating Hasn’t Been Around As Long As You Think, Apartment Therapy, 1994-2022 Apartment Therapy, LLC
-Thomas, Heather. The Origins of Halloween Traditions, Library of congress, October 26, 2021
Hall, Crystal, Halloween Background andTraditions, Study.com, March 26, 2022https://study.com/learn/lesson/halloween-background-traditions-all-hallows-eve.
April Chahmirian, Staff Writer
Sophomore April Chahmirian is a staff writer for the 2022-2023 Colonel Newsmagazine. She likes reading and counting down the days until Halloween.