Where Halloween Traditions Came From


Mayli Winter, Reporter

Halloween is just around the corner, time to prepare. How do you prepare for Halloween? Well, first you have to carve pumpkins for Jack-o-Lanterns, and you’ve got to eat a couple of Carmel Apples as you do. Buy candy for trick-or-treaters, decorate, etc. Have you ever wondered where these traditions come from? Why do we do these traditions?  

Starting with carving pumpkins, the tradition came from Ireland but with turnips instead of pumpkins. They had a story about a man named Jack, who trapped the Devil time and time again. Jack would only let him go if he promised that he would never go to Hell. When the time came for Jack do die, the Devil kept his promise, but Jack wasn’t allowed in Heaven either. So, Jack’s soul was forced to wander the Earth for eternity. The Devil gave Jack a carved-out turnip with burning coal inside to light his was. Eventually, people in Ireland would put carved turnips outside their house to keep evil spirits away from them. Now, we carve pumpkins for fun and décor, but we never knew the real reason for that tradition. 

Why are ghosts such a big part of Halloween? The Celtic people of Europe celebrated a festival called Samhain, which represented the end of Harvest and the beginning of winter, where spirits would walk the Earth again. They believed that these spirits would be evil and resentful of the living, and that they needed to fear them. In later years, they started a new celebration called All Souls Day on November 2nd. This was started by Christian missionaries who started the idea of mingling with people in the afterlife one day a year.  

Another tradition that came from the Samhain festival is costumes. Another way to avoid the evil spirits was to dress up like them. When the spirit would see another spirit, it wouldn’t pester it, unlike if it saw a human.  

Trick-or-treating comes from many different places with just little things changed. One place that had something like trick-or-treating is, again, the Celtic people. During the Samhain celebrations, they would leave food on their porch at night as an offering to the evil spirits. Soon, people who were dressed up as these spirits would go and take the food and drinks that were left out for the ghosts. Another place that did similar traditions was Scotland. The Scottish would actually use candy for their celebrations. Children and poor adults would go to homes and collect food or other offerings in exchange for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day. Some though would go a more nonreligious route and would play jokes and pranks instead of the offerings.  

Now you know about some of the background of where our traditions came from and why. Almost all of the reasons we do the things we do to celebrate has changed. Now it’s more for fun and festivities. Yet back in the Middle Ages it was thought to have been done out of necessity. Now we can enjoy our holiday more than they could in the past.