Who Has a Question About Halloween?

Halloween has a pretty cool and spooky history, going back thousands of years. The holiday has morphed from a fairly eerie night of superstition, to the playful, family-centric celebration we know today. But why do we celebrate Halloween? Let’s explore!

How did Halloween begin?


Roughly 2,000 years ago, the end of October always marked a significant time of year for early Europeans, mostly those of Gaelic (pre-Ireland) and Scottish origin. On October 31 each year, they celebrated the festival of Samhain, observing the end of the summer harvest season and the beginning of winter. But in a spooky twist, they believed the night before November 1 – the eve of all All Saint’s Day – was when the dead returned to the Earth as ghosts. Bonfires were lit to ward of evil spirits, in the hopes of keeping away bad vibes for the wintertime.

The saints were referred to as “hallows”, deeming October 31 as “All Hallows’ Eve”. Many traditions, like dressing in costume and bobbing for apples, evolved during the Middle Ages, eventually making its way to 19th century America. Irish and Scottish immigrants began to revive these customs in early colonial times, as the shortened “Halloween” came to be.

Why do we dress up?

These early partyers would often dress in costume to keep away any evil spirits before All Saint’s Day. On All Hallows’ Eve, villagers would wear masks to avoid being recognized by the ghosts they believed were walking around town. As times marched on, young Irish and Scottish tricksters would begin to dress up in scary costumes, spooking their friends and neighbors for fun. But fast forward to 1950s America, when the entire holiday became a much more mainstream. A family-friendly evening, with more colorful, creative, and pleasant costumes, emerged.

Trick or Treat

Why do we trick-or-treat for candy?

Believe it or not, November 2nd marked a third holiday for these Halloween trailblazers: All Soul’s Day. During the Middle Ages, children would go “souling”, collecting food or money in exchange for saying prayers for the dead. The practice of “guising” came next in Scotland, where children and young adults would perform at the doorsteps of their neighbors by telling jokes or singing, and be rewarded with fruit, wine, or coins. Then in 1920s North America, kids would play tricks on their neighbors, following in step with the early immigrants’ traditions. They were promptly chased out with sweets and candies – much to their delight!

Why do we carve pumpkins?

Carved Pumpkin

During the time All Hallows’ Eve was coming to rise in Ireland and Scotland, the story of “Stingy Jack” circulated. As legend goes, Stingy Jack was not a nice guy. Due to his actions on Earth, he was not let into heaven or hell when he passed away. With nowhere to go, Jack scooped out the inside of a turnip and filled it with glowing coal, allowing him to roam around at night. Irish legend referred to him as “Jack of the Lantern”, or Jack O’Lantern! From this tall tale, children and adults would scoop out turnips, potatoes, or beets and set them aglow during Hallows’ Eve to ward off unsavory characters like Jack. When these traditions came to America, early settlers discovered pumpkins as a native crop. It is believed pumpkins replaced the other vegetables as the glowing vessel of choice.

Happy Halloween!


Sources: mentalfloss.com, history.com, countryliving.com