Unraveling the History of Halloween


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Kids have been trick or treating for decades.

Finally, it’s Halloween! For many of us, we wait all year for these glorious 31 days of getting to be creepy without being judged. Scary movies play all over TV, stores are full of candy, and everything is pumpkin spice flavored.

But where does all of this even come from? Why do we carve pumpkins? Why do we dress up? It all started around 2,000 years ago with a European religious group, called the Celts, and a festival by the name of Samhain.

As some people may already know, Halloween marked the end of the harvest. Summer was over, the days grew shorter and darker and somewhat understandably, the Celts associated this chilly turn of the season with death. On Oct. 31, it was believed there was no longer a strong boundary between the living world and the dead, and the souls of the deceased were free to roam for the night. The Celts tried to scare off the spirits that wandered because they believed the spirits would damage their crops. The Celts used fires and Jack-o-lantern’s, which were traditionally carved out of turnips. Why Jack-O’-Lantern’s? Satan, of course.

The story says that a man named Jack tricked the Devil into climbing a tree and marked the sign of the cross into its bark, trapping him in its branches. Jack agreed to let Satan down, but not until he promised that he would never take his soul when he eventually died; Jack was not a nice man. Inevitably, he grew old, and when he died, he was denied access to Heaven. He tried to go to Hell, but after telling Jack to get lost, the Devil threw a hot coal at him. Condemned to an eternity of wandering, Jack put the coal in a hollowed out turnip to make a lantern, and thus the Jack-o-lantern was born.

The biggest Halloween tradition of all, trick or treating, has interesting origins itself. People believed that if they dressed up, disguised as evil spirits, they could confuse the wandering souls and would be free from harm, and that’s where costumes originated. After they were dressed up, kids would demand treats from people, and that part just stuck.

No matter where it all came from, Halloween has evolved into a favorite holiday for many people. It’s a night of dressing up, eating way too much sugar, attending Halloween parties, and watching all the horror movies. Whether you’re curled up on the couch tonight handing out candy or getting spooky at a party, remember to stay safe and have a great time!