Travel Advisory: Limited Operations Due to COVID-19. Learn More
Home » The History of Halloween
The History of Halloween

The History of Halloween

Halloween is probably one of the most festive holidays of the year. From trick-or-treating to the hundreds of different costumes you’ll see throughout the night, this holiday is definitely a fun one to celebrate. The idea of dressing up in a costume and celebrating with your friends will definitely never get old. Even though we celebrate this holiday every year, do you know all about the history of Halloween? If you want to learn all about this great holiday and how it came about, we have got you covered! Check out our Halloween history and find out why we celebrate this holiday every year.

The Beginning of Halloween

Halloween’s origins can be traced all the way back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain from over 2000 years ago. The Celts had occupied what is now Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France. In the past, Halloween was used to mark the end of summer and the beginning of winter for the Celts. The Celts celebrated their New Year on November 1st and believed on October 31st, the ghosts of the dead returned. Their belief was that on the night before the New Year, what they called Samhain; the world of the living and dead lost its separation. The Celts believed that the ghosts would come back to the world to cause trouble and damage crops. They also believed that the presence of the ghosts allowed Druids and Celtic priests to better predict the future.

The Celts depended upon these predictions especially during the times of what could be a long, cold, and dark winter. Celts looked forward to the prophecies in order to find a balance and comfort in the world. The Druids would build huge sacred bonfires, where the people would gather and offer sacrifices to the Celtic deities. Celebrations included costumes of animal heads and skin being worn as fortunes were told. After the celebration, the fire would be lit up again in order to provide protection for the winter to come.

Halloween’s Origins

Around the year 43 A.D., the Celtic’s celebration of Samhain began taking on a new meaning. The Roman Empire had conquered much of Celtic territory and during the 400 years of ruling, two Roman festivals had combined with the Celtic celebration of Samhain. Feralia was the first to combine with Samhain; this day in late October was a day where the Romans recognized the passing of the day. The second was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple, which leads many to believe that this where the Halloween tradition of bobbing for apples began. Today’s version of Halloween did not come about until after 1000 A.D. Many different events and outside influences came together to create Halloween.

Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Pantheon in Rome to all Christian martyrs on May 13, 609, which lead to the Catholic feast of All Martyrs Day. Pope Gregory III later expanded the festival to include all saints and martyrs and moved the observance to November 1st, today’s All Saints Day. The 9th century saw the influence of Christianity throughout the Celtic lands, which lead to older Celtic rites being blending in with Christianity. In 1000 A.D., the church established November 2nd as All Souls Day, a day to honor the dead. The celebration of All Souls Day was very similar to Samhain, where large bonfires, parades, and costumes of saints, angels, and devils were worn. The establishment of these two holidays lead to the night before traditional Samhain to be called All-Hallows Eve and then eventually Halloween.

Halloween in America

Earlier celebrations of Halloween were limited in colonial New England due to the established Protestant beliefs. Celebrations of Halloween were more common in the southern colonies and Maryland. The American version of Halloween did not come about until the beliefs and customs of different European ethnic groups and American Indians meshed together. Halloween, however, still was not celebrated throughout the country until the second half of the 19th century. America began to see an increase in immigrants throughout the country, especially millions of Irish immigrants. These immigrants are thought to have popularized the celebration of Halloween. Through the combination of Irish and English traditions, our tradition of trick-or-treating was born. Trick-or-treating consisted of Americans dressing up in costumes and going door-to-door asking for food and money.

The late 1800s brought about the movement of making Halloween more community friendly. Parents were encouraged to remove any frightening items out of Halloween, which also lead to the superstitious and religious ideas associated with the night to vanish. By the 20th century, Halloween became a more community-centered holiday filled with parades and parties.

Halloween Today

Today’s celebration of Halloween still consists of parades, parties, trick-or-treating, and people dressing up in costumes. The celebrations are usually accompanied with candy, scary decorations, dark colors and orange, and of course pumpkins. Certain cultures still celebrate the remembrance of the dead keeping the original tradition of the holiday alive today. Halloween may not be celebrated the same way as it was in the past, but the unity that took place in the past is still alive in today’s celebrations. No matter how you celebrate Halloween, it is definitely still one of the most festive holidays around!

For More Information:

If you would like more information on our Halloween events, please use our live chat window. To view all of our available events, please click here.