There’s something magical about autumn. The leaves change colors, kids go back to school, and the smell of pumpkin spice fills the air. Halloween is fast approaching, which means it’s time to get spooky! What better way to get in the spirit than by taking a deeper look at this ghoulish holiday with a scary history? In this blog post, you will learn all about the spooktacular history of Halloween. From its roots as a Celtic Samhain celebration to modern pop culture interpretations of this spirited day, we cover it all! So grab your cauldron and come explore the creepy past of this awesome Autumn holiday.
What is Halloween?
Halloween is a culture-wide holiday celebrated every October 31st. It’s a day for kids and adults to dress up in spooky costumes, go trick-or-treating, attend parties, and carve jack o’lanterns. There’s plenty of history behind the spooky holiday we celebrate today. Halloween’s origins are deeply rooted in ancient pagan traditions. The Celts celebrated Samhain, a festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the “darker half” of the year. During this time, people would build bonfires, wear costumes, and perform sacrificial ceremonies in order to ward off evil spirits.
Halloween’s scary history
While Halloween has changed a lot over the past 2,000 years, it’s important to keep in mind that many of the traditions we celebrate today are relatively new. The Celts celebrated Samhain with bonfires, costumed feasts, and sacrificial rites. It is believed that these rituals were meant to ward off evil spirits and welcome good spirits into the village. While these traditions are no longer practiced, they’re the basis for many modern rituals and traditions. For example, the jack o’lantern is thought to have originated from the Celts placing candles in turnips to ward off evil spirits.
Halloween Comes to America
Halloween is a great example of a holiday that has changed a lot as it has traveled around the world. Because of the strict Protestant belief systems in colonial New England, Halloween celebrations were extremely limited. Halloween was much more common in Maryland and the southern colonies. When European ethnic groups’ beliefs and customs mixed with those of American Indians, a distinctively American Halloween was born.
The first Halloween parties were known as “play parties,” which were celebrations of the harvest and were open to the public. Neighbors would tell ghost stories, predict one another's futures, dance, and sing. Ghost stories and all sorts of mischief-making were part of colonial Halloween celebrations. By the middle of the 19th century, annual autumn festivities were commonplace, but Halloween was not yet celebrated nationwide. The celebration of Halloween became popular nationwide in the second half of the 19th century, thanks to the millions of Irish fleeing the Irish Potato Famine.
Trick or Treat? Or Just Treat?
One of the most popular Halloween traditions is trick or treat. When it started in America, it was mainly a way for people to get rid of surplus candy. But it wasn’t long before it evolved into the tradition of children dressing up and going door-to-door asking for candy. Treat or trick is not a new concept either. It just has a different name. The tradition of giving out sweets to children on Halloween goes as far back as the 1920s. The tradition of children dressing up dates back to the end of the 1800s. But the ultimate question that begs an answer is, who came first? The treat or the trick? Well, the trick came first. The treat came a little later.
Best Ways to Celebrate Halloween
So, now that you’re a Halloween expert, you’re probably wondering about some good ways to celebrate it. There are tons of options available to you, but here are a few ideas just in case you need a little inspiration.
Trick-or-treating - If you’re going to go trick-or-treating, you’ll want to make sure it’s safe. Make sure you go with a group of people and don’t ever go alone. Also, keep an eye out for houses that don’t participate in the tradition.
Host a Halloween party - Hosting a Halloween party is a great way to celebrate. You can do it indoors or outdoors and have it catered or make snacks ahead of time so that you don’t have to cook.
Go to a haunted house - If you want to celebrate Halloween in a more extreme way, you can try going to a haunted house, or family-friendly Halloween event.
Watch Spooky Movies - It's fun to watch horror movies that aren't your typical scary fare. These can be especially fun for younger kids.
Go to Pumpkin Patches - There are few things as magical as a trip to the pumpkin patch, especially if you have kids. They’re the perfect combination of fall activities that won’t scare your children and still give them a ton of fun and memorable moments.
For more fun ideas, see our Halloween Guide.