The Spooky History of Halloween

Olivia Nichols

Many people celebrate Halloween with trick or treating, scary movies, and other traditions like bobbing for apples and hayrides. Halloween is filled with many fun and scary traditions for everyone. Halloween is the 2nd most popular holiday in the U.S.. and it didn’t even originate here. The history of Halloween goes back thousands of years with many of the same activities we still do today. There is actually a lot of history behind Halloween and the things we do to celebrate.

One of the most popular Halloween activities is going to pumpkin patches and carving pumpkins. Many families and friends will come together to go pick out pumpkins. Some people will leave their pumpkins as is and use them for decorations. Others will carve spooky faces into them. This tradition started back in the 1920’s in Ireland from an Irish folktale about a man named Stingy Jack. In the story, Stingy Jack invited the Devil to have a drink with him. Stingy Jack did not want to pay for his drink, so he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin that Jack could use. The Devil agreed, but Jack ended up keeping the coin for himself. He put the coin in his pocket next to a silver cross which prevented the Devil from changing back to his original form. Jack eventually freed him under the condition that the Devil would not bother Jack for a year. Later the next year, Jack tricked the Devil again. He tricked him into climbing a tree to pick a piece of fruit. When the Devil was in the tree, Jack carved a cross into the trunk of the tree so that the Devil could not come down. Jack wanted another agreement, but this time he didn’t want the Devil to bother him for another ten years. Sadly, soon after Jack died. The Devil, upset by the tricks Jack played and keeping his promise that he would not claim his soul when he died, sent Jack off into the dark night with only coal burning in a carved turnip. Jack has been roaming the Earth since. The Irish began to refer to this figure as Jack of the Lantern which is how Jack O’ Lantern got its name.

Ghosts are also commonly associated with Halloween. They are easy costumes and are found in many popular Halloween movies. Ghosts have been traced back to Celtic festivals and parties. There was a festival attended by Celtic people called “Samhain.” Samhain marked the transition of the end of harvest to the beginning of winter. They believed that on this day, spirits could walk the Earth. Several years later, All Souls Day was introduced on November 2nd by Christian missionaries. Ghosts are souls or spirits of a dead person that can appear to the living. People believe ghosts will come back to haunt you for something you have done to the person while they were still living.

Trick-or-Treating is the most common activity that takes place on Halloween night. Kids dress up in Halloween costumes and go door to door asking for candy. During some Celtic celebrations of Samhain, villagers would disguise themselves in costumes made of animal skins to drive away phantom visitors. Banquet tables were prepared and food was left out to calm the unwelcome spirits. Later in the 19th century, poorer people would visit the houses of wealthier families and receive cakes called soul cakes in exchange for a promise to pray for the souls of the homeowners dead relatives. The practice was later taken up by children, who would go from door to door asking for gifts such as food and money. 

Halloween is a fun holiday for everyone to enjoy and is a good day to create a lot of memories. While it’s filled with tons of candy, spooky costumes, and movies, Halloween is filled with history and meaning.