Halloween was originally started by the Celts, a tribe of people from what is now Ireland, the UK and northern France, on the night before their new year, November 1st. This marked the start of the cold winter in which many people died, and they believed that on the day before the line between the living and dead became blurred and they celebrated the return of ghosts to Earth. The celebration was called Samhain. The Celtic Priests, Druids, were believed to be able to make better predictions about the future on this day. They lit bonfires to burn crops and sacrifice animals to commemorate.
When the Roman Empire conquered the Celts, they combined two of their festivals with Samhain, Feralia (a day in October where the Romans commemorated the dead) and a day to honor Pomona (the roman goddess of fruit and trees). The symbol of Pomona is the apple, and this is likely where the bobbing for apples activity comes from. When the influence of Christianity spread a few centuries later, November 2 was dedicated as All Saint’s Day, which was celebrated in a similar manner as Samhain. All Saint’s Day was also called All-hallows, and the night before was All-hallows Eve, which is where the name Halloween comes from.
When Halloween came to America, it was mainly celebrated in the Protestant areas by telling ghost stories and dance and sing. Towards the end of the 19th century, when many people immigrated to America, mainly the millions of Irish escaping the potato famine, people began to dress up in costumes and go house to house asking for money. This is where modern trick or treating was born. However, it wasn’t until the 1920’s-50’s that modern Halloween activities were revived and changed into what we do today.
Halloween has always been full of mystery and superstition. Back in the Celtic days, people would set places at their tables, left treats outside their doors, and lit candles for their friendly spirits. Today, the superstitions are much more scary. Ghosts are malevolent and scary creatures, we do not walk across the path of a black cat, and we don’t walk under ladders. All of these have benign roots dating back centuries. Halloween has gone from a celebration of past souls to a celebration of all things scary.