The Spooky and Weird Origins of Halloween
With Halloween right around the corner, there’s so much to look forward to. Whether it’s the costumes, pumpkin carving, or handing out candy there’s no wrong way to celebrate.
But why is it that we celebrate Halloween in the first place? Why do we wear costumes? Or eat candy? Or tell scary stories?
While it’s an amazing, fun holiday, its origins are two thousand years old. And the way that it’s celebrated has changed over time and culture.
Read on to learn more about the amazing - sometimes weird - origins of Halloween and the traditions that we still do to this day.
How Halloween Started
2,000 years ago, Halloween was better known as Samhain (sow-in). It was celebrated by The Celts, a group of people who lived in the area we know today as Ireland. It was a time that marked the official end of summer and the beginning of winter.
With the harvest complete, the nights were going to get long and cold. It was a time of year associated with death.
October 31st was also their New Year’s Eve and November 1st was their New Year. They believed the transition to the new year blurred the lines between the living and dead. For them, it was the one night that ghosts would return to the earth.
With spirits among them, they believed it would be easier to tell the future for the upcoming year. They burned bonfires and offered sacrifices to ensure good fortune and survival through the winter months.
Many of the traditions that the ancient Celts practiced, we still uphold today. And some of our traditions may be older than what we thought! Read on and find out how many of these we still take part in today.
When Irish immigrants came to the United States, they brought Halloween with them. One of these traditions being the Jack-O-Lantern. Did you know that they weren’t carved from pumpkins, but turnips? Sometimes potatoes were used as well.
The tradition comes from an Irish folk tale called Stingy Jack. It's about a man doomed to wander the Earth at night with only a bright coal to light his way.
The lantern's purpose was frightening away evil spirits.
When brought to the United States, Irish immigrants used turnips as well as pumpkins. But the boom in pumpkin popularity started in the 60s. This was the US's introduction to the Howden pumpkin. It was ideal for carving and not necessarily for eating.
Dressing up was part of Samhain. The belief was that the spirits would think that a costumed person was one of their own. The Celts also used this opportunity to play pranks on each other and blame it on the ‘spirits’
Halloween costumes have evolved over the years. When ancient Christians adopted the holiday, the name changed from Samhain to All Hallow’s Eve (Hallow Evening) - the day before All Saint’s Day. People would dress up as angels, devils and saints.
When Irish immigrants first brought Halloween traditions to the states, the holiday focused more on the scary aspects. People dressed up to be frightening with sheets, masks and fake blood.
Costumes changed with the popularity of cartoon and television characters. Commercial costumes of characters were available to buy for the first time. Nowadays, a trip to the store will show the diversity of costumes we have to choose from.
Believe it or not this one doesn’t originate from Samhain, but during medieval times. People would dress up as angels, demons, and saints. They would go door to door and beg for food and money in exchange for songs and prayers on behalf of the dead.
Trick-or-treating didn’t emerge in the states until the 20's and 30’s. It stopped during World War II because of sugar rations. After the war ended, the tradition came back in full force turning into what we know it as today.
Nowadays, a quarter of all the candy sold in the US is during Halloween. The tradition isn’t slowing down any time soon. Because who doesn’t enjoy a treat or two? It might even be good for you!
What are your plans for Halloween? Are you dressing up? Tell us in the comments below. We love a good costume! Have fun, be safe, and have a Happy Halloween.