Halloween History: Where Did It Come From and How Did It Become What It Is Today?

Blog | October 14th, 2022

Halloween is one of the biggest holidays of the year. Not only is it a time for fans of spooky movies and TV shows to come alive as their favorite characters, but it can be a fun and exciting occasion to enjoy evocative weather and pumpkin spice lattes.

Despite its popularity, some might be shocked at the long history behind this iconic holiday. Read on to learn where Halloween came from and discover the origins of some favorite traditions. 

Halloween History

Halloween likely started as the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. Celtic peoples observed it to pay homage to the coming new season and the gods in charge of the changes it brought. As the centuries passed, the festival blended with the Christian holiday, All Hallow’s Eve. This event was made universal in Catholicism by Pope Gregory III.

The day paid tribute to Christian saints, with the next morning known as All Saints Day. Even with its pagan origins, Christians widely celebrated it, mingling its ancient practices with their own customs.

In the United States, Puritans objected to All Hallow’s Eve, but it still became a recognized holiday in the country thanks to Irish and Scottish immigrants. Many familiar traditions, like children dressing up as monsters and trick or treating, didn’t gain broad popularity until the 20th Century.

When Did Trick or Treating Start?

Trick or Treating is a fun practice that allows many young children to gather tons of candy and eat it until they have a tummy ache. Interestingly, the practice wasn’t popularized until the 1930s. Before then, people would often dress up in costume and scare the people around their neighborhood.

Jokesters and pranksters made the modern practice popular by demanding a treat from people so they wouldn’t be tricked.

Have People Always Carved Pumpkins for Halloween?

Pumpkin carving dates back to the ancient origins of Halloween. As part of Samhain, Celtic observers would use turnips as pumpkins did not grow in places like Ireland. These were sometimes stuffed with a lump of burning coal so that people could see where they were walking, essentially an early form of light. 

Some turnips with coal inside were used as decorations, but they would go bad quickly, meaning there wasn’t much time for the handiwork to be appreciated.

The carving of pumpkins is an American tradition, with the practice first recorded in the 1830s. At that point, the custom was associated with harvest time. Americans adopted the pumpkin as it was native to the United States and easier to carve.

Final Thoughts

Halloween has ancient and fascinating origins. Not only are the festivities old, but they remained largely the same as the generations passed, making it a piece of the ancient world that survives today.

The holiday likely stemmed from an ancient Celtic festival that included one of the best Halloween traditions: carving! Get in touch with your inner Celt and partake in all the festivities that Halloween has to offer, from trick or treating to dressing up as a spooky character!

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