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The history of Halloween

Steven Thompson

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Halloween, with its costumes, candy sales, decorations, television specials and movies, has become a multi-million dollar a year industry. It has grown to be one of the most highly anticipated events of the fall season.

Pumpkin carving is a popular Halloween activity. Photo by Lacey Wyndham.

While many traditional Halloween activities, such as trick-or-treating, are aimed at younger people, this holiday is not restricted to children. Halloween is intended to be enjoyed by people of all ages. In fact, the first occurence of this event dates back to “Samhain,” a 2,000-year-old Celtic farming festival that is still celebrated today.

This event marked the end of the autumn harvest season and the beginning of winter. During Samhain, the Celtics lit bonfires and wore costumes to disguise themselves.  They hoped that these actions would ward off bad spirits that they believed had power to destroy their crops before harvest.

In the eighth century, Christians also began to celebrate this event, but reshaped its meaning. Under Pope Gregory III, Nov. 1 was designated as the time to honor all Saints. Oct. 31 became known as All Hallows’ Eve and was later named Halloween.

The new premise was that children and the poor would go “souling” from door to door to ask for donations or food in exchange for prayers for the people answering the doors.

Modern Halloween traditions are said to have been brought to the U.S. by Irish immigrants in the 19th century. These immigrants introduced the traditions of pumpkin carving and decorating.

Taking cues from the Irish, the U.S. began to fashion their festivities similarly. They too began to go door to door asking for food and money.

The popularity of Halloween has grown throughout the years. Souling eventually became known as trick-or-treating, and you don’t have to be Celtic, Irish or a child to enjoy. Trick or Treat!


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The history of Halloween