The History of Halloween


Riley Betterelli, Author

Halloween is a commonly celebrated holiday that takes place on October 31st and this is the history of Halloween. 

Celtic Beginnings 

The holiday originated in the ancient Celtic Festival of Samhain. describes the Celtic Festival of Samhain as, “In modern times, Samhain (a Gaelic word pronounced “SAH-win”) is usually celebrated from October 31 to November 1 to welcome in the harvest and usher in “the dark half of the year.” Celebrants believe that the barriers between the physical world and the spirit world break down during Samhain, allowing more interaction between humans and denizens of the Otherworld.” This was believed to be a mandatory celebration and would receive punishment from the gods if you did not attend. The people would dress up as animals and monsters to make sure that fairies would not kidnap them. described the Celts as, “The Celts were a collection of tribes with origins in central Europe that shared a similar language, religious beliefs, traditions and culture. It’s believed that the Celtic culture started to evolve as early as 1200 B.C. The Celts spread throughout western Europe—including Britain, Ireland, France and Spain—via migration. Their legacy remains most prominent in Ireland and Great Britain, where traces of their language and culture are still prominent today.” The Celts celebrated their New Year on November 1st and celebrated Samhain on October 31st 

The Romans and Celtics Come Together 

The Roman Empire would conquer Celtic territory in 43 A.D. and would rule the Celtic islands for 400 years. Two Roman festivals would end up combining with the Celtic Samhain festival. described the two Roman festivals as, “The first was Feralia, a day in late October when the Romans traditionally commemorated the passing of the dead. The second was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees.” The Pomona festival could explain the bobbing for apples tradition that is common today.  

The Creation of All Saints’ Day 

All Saints’ Day would be a holiday created by the Pope at the time. It was originally All Martyrs Day until Pope Gregory III expanded the festival to include all saints. states, “The All Saints’ Day celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints’ Day) and the night before it, the traditional night of Samhain in the Celtic religion, began to be called All-Hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween.” 

Halloween Reaches America 

Halloween was originally common in colonial New England and the southern states. However, an American version of Halloween would soon emerge. states, “The first celebrations included “play parties,” which were public events held to celebrate the harvest. Neighbors would share stories of the dead, tell each other’s fortunes, dance and sing.” Even though it was celebrated, it would not be popular nationwide until new immigrants that were mainly from Ireland began coming to America. stated that, “In the early 20th century, Irish and Scottish communities revived the Old-World traditions of souling and guising in the United States. By the 1920s, however, pranks had become the Halloween activity of choice for rowdy young people.”  

Those pranks would soon turn violent, however, when The Great Depression hit the pranks would soon become vandalism, assaults, and violence. states that, “This trend was abruptly curtailed, however, with the outbreak of World War II, when sugar rationing meant there were few treats to hand out. At the height of the postwar baby boom, trick-or-treating reclaimed its place among other Halloween customs.”  

Halloween Today 

Halloween is a popular holiday today. Halloween is on Sunday, October 31st this year. Stay safe this year Cardinals!