History of Halloween

Kyndell Mcmillen, Communications and Advertising

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Kyndell Mcmillen 


Halloween began as Samhain, an ancient Celtic practice. Samhain is celebrated on October 31st – November 1st and was started to ward off evil spirits or to celebrate passed loved ones. The Celts believed this day is the day that the veil between life and death is thinnest, meaning spirits could travel more easily and the Druids could predict the future more clearly.  

In the 8th century Pope Gregory named November 1st “All Saints Day”: a day to honor the Catholic saints. All Saints Day incorporated many of the Samhain traditions. All Saints Day is generally believed to be created by Christians to make the conversion from Pagan to Christian easier.  


The modern version of Trick or Treating didn’t exist till the 1920’s but the origins rest in the 8th century with good old Pope Gregory. On all Saints day, the poor would walk up to the rich and ask for “soul cakes” in turn for the cake the poor “soulers” would pray for the soul of the rich person. Jack-o-lanterns began with the Celts carving scary faces into turnips to ward off the evil spirits that would come in the night. Dressing up as scary things came from the Celts who believed that disguising themselves this way would allow them to escape the notice of the real spirits wandering the streets during Samhain. 

Fun facts 

Samhain is still celebrated every year by thousands of Pagans in the US. The word “witch” comes from the Old English wicce, meaning “wise woman.” Samhainophobia is the fear of Halloween. Scottish girls believed they could see images of their future husband if they hung wet sheets in front of the fire on Halloween. Halloween celebrations in Hong Kong are known as Yue Lan or the “Festival of the Hungry Ghosts” during which fires are lit and food and gifts are offered to placate potentially angry ghosts who might be looking for revenge.