Halloween is the second largest commercial celebration in the United States, behind Christmas. According to the United States Census Bureau over 41 million children age 5 to 14 will trick or treat this year. With all the pranks and candy, it’s easy to forget that Halloween is not traditionally an American celebration. Read on to learn where exactly Halloween came from and how it evolved into the spooky holiday we have today.


Celtic Origins:

The Celts, a European culture located in the areas in and around modern-day France, celebrated the original Halloween. However, they called their holiday Samhain and it marked the beginning of their new year. The Celts believed that the line dividing the realm of spirits and the realm of the living blurred on the night of October 31st. This is because of the strong association of winter with death. It was tradition for the Celtic people to dress in animal skins and predict each other’s futures. The Celts believed the presence of spirits heightened their senses giving them foresight.


Roman Conquest:

By the year 43 A.D. the Romans had conquered the Celtic people and the Samhain celebration was subsequently combined with two other traditional Roman Holidays. The first Roman holiday, Feralia, celebrated the passing of the dead from the realm of the living. This celebration took place in late October. The second was Pomona, a day to celebrate the Roman Goddess of fruit and Trees, Pomona.


Roman and Celts Combine:

As Christian culture spread throughout Celtic lands, its heavy influence began to warp many Celtic traditions. The Christian church created All Souls Day on November 2nd in an attempt to discourage celebration of practices that traditionally took place that time of year. All Souls Day drew influence from Samhain, people would dress up in costumes to celebrate the departed souls of their loved ones. The first of November was known as All Saints Day, also called All-Hallows. The night before All-Hallows was called Hallows Eve and eventually Halloween.


Halloween in America:

During the Colonial Era, Halloween celebrations were rare because of the strength of the Protestant belief system. However, as European ethnic groups and Native Americans began to mix with the colonials, a more defined Halloween celebration became apparent. By the mid-19th century, celebrations of the harvest were common but Halloween did not exist. In the latter half of the 19th century, an influx of European immigrants helped to popularize modern Halloween traditions. Americans began to dress up and go door to door asking for food and money.


Modern Halloween:

In the late 1800’s community leaders encouraged parents to take all of the grotesque and horrific elements out of Halloween. The focus shifted to family aspects and Halloween became a celebration of community. This resulted in the elimination of most of the spiritual practices that were originally a huge part of the celebration. Halloween lost its association with the passing of spirts from the realm of the living. In the 1950’s the focus of Halloween shifted to children. America revived the practice of Trick-or-Treating and communities encouraged children to go from house to house asking for candy. The thought was that by providing the children with small treats and an outlet for their energy, vandalism would be eliminated.



Thanks for checking out our short history of Halloween! For more in-depth information check out History.com and Livescience.com. If you enjoy our content then be sure to like, share and follow us. Sign up for Troolr today completely free and start connecting with local professionals.