The History of Halloween

The History of Halloween

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With Halloween just around the corner and many households prepping for an inundation of trick or treaters.

With Halloween just around the corner and many households prepping for an inundation of trick or treaters, we thought it might be a good time to look back at some of the history behind the tradition to show how much the chilling holiday has changed from its inception:

It Was New Year’s Eve for the Celts

Halloween’s roots can be traced all the way back to Samhain, the ancient Celtic celebration which marked the end of summer and the beginning of their New Year. As their year’s revolved around the harvest and the New Year began with dark and cold winter, the Celts believed that on the night of October 31st the world of the living and the world of the dead crossed over, and the ghosts of the dead caused damage to crops.

The Romans Mix It Up

The Roman Empire was spread far and wide by 43AD, and this included across all Celtic lands. Being an inclusive empire, the Romans combined their festival, Feralia, which commemorated the passing of the dead, with the traditional Samhain celebration of the Celts. By 1000AD, Christianity was well established and, in an attempt to replace Samhain with a church-sanctioned holiday, they introduced All-hallows Eve which featured bonfires, parades and costumes of angels and devils.

Who’s Under The Mask?

As the Roman’s and Celts believed that ghosts came back to the living world on All-hallows Eve, they would wear masks when they left their homes so they would be mistaken for other spirits and avoid being recognised by these ghosts.

Trick Or Treat!

During All-hallows Eve parades in England, poor citizens would often beg for food. This lead to the introduction of Soul Cakes as part of the celebration which people would give in return for a prayer. This practice was originally called ‘going-a-souling’ and over the decades was taken up by children who would go from door-to-door in their neighbourhood asking for ale and food.

Coming To America

With the flood of immigrants to America over the course of the nineteenth century the celebration grew in popularity, with immigrants dressing up in costumes and going door to door asking for food or money – cementing the trick or treat tradition. With this growing popularity of the holiday, efforts were made to turn Halloween into a community holiday with parties featuring games, food and festive costumes being celebrated throughout the country.

Nick Cooper
Nick is NCC's resident blog author and covers a range of subjects, including teaching and health & social care. NCC is an international learning provider with over 20 years’ experience offering learning solutions. To date, NCC has engaged with over 20,000 employers, and delivered quality training to over half a million learners.
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