The Haunted History of Halloween – The Story Behind Costumes, Pumpkins and Candy
by: Clare Swindlehurst

 

Did you know that Halloween is America’s second biggest commercial holiday? October 31 is now a day for dressing up in costumes, going to parties and eating candy, but Halloween is an ancient tradition that started long before costumes and candy corn were even invented!

Why is it called Halloween?

There are many different thoughts about the origins of Halloween, but the one thing people do agree on is that it’s more about harvesting than horror.

The Celts are said to have started this annual tradition because they celebrated their new year on November 1 to mark the end of the summer and the start of the long dark, cold winter. They staged a harvest festival called Samhain to protect themselves and their crops from the winter ahead.

The name Halloween didn’t come about until much later when in the 800s Pope Boniface IV named November 1 All Saints’ Day or All-Hallows Day. This day was to honour those people who had died for their Christian beliefs.

Before too long people started referring to the night before as All-Hallows Eve, and then eventually Halloween.

Why do we trick or treat?

In the early days of All Saint’s Day celebrations in England families would have parades and festivities. Poor people would beg for food and they would be given Soul Cakes if they promised to pray for the family’s dead relatives.

After a time this became a tradition in itself and children would “go a souling”, visiting houses in the neighbourhood and being rewarded with food and money.

What about the Halloween costumes?

Hundreds of years ago it was believed that ghosts roamed the streets on Halloween so people would wear masks when they left their houses to fool the ghosts into thinking that they were spirits too. People would also place bowls of food outside their houses to satisfy the ghosts and stop them from entering the house.

As centuries passed these two traditions of costumes and tick or treating have combined and today children wear costumes for fun and eat the candies that are left out, and no one really worries about the ghosts anymore!

What’s the story behind the Jack-o’-Lantern?

There is an old Irish myth that says that an old trickster called Stingy Jack was not allowed to enter heaven or hell because of the trickery he had played while he was alive. The devil gave Jack a glowing piece of coal and a hollowed out turnip so that he could find his way in the dark, and the legend suggests that Jack has been roaming the earth ever since.

The Irish named the ghostly wandered Jack of the Lantern which over time became Jack-o’-Lantern. Scottish and Irish children would recreate the lantern with a turnip and a candle and use it to scare away spirits like Stingy Jack.

This tradition continued for many years until European immigrants arrived in America and saw that pumpkins were much better because of the bright orange colour and soft insides. Today the turnips have been abandoned and people across the world carve faces into pumpkins on Halloween.

About The Author
These days we celebrate Halloween with trick or treating and costume parties. If you are hosting or attending a Halloween party this year you should think about Couple Halloween Costumes to really make an impression at the party. For some great Costume Couples ideas visit http://halloweencostumecouplesideas.com/

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