Halloween: A History

​By Madi Wakamatsu

Halloween is a holiday with a long, pagan, history.

When most people think of Halloween, they think of a light hearted celebration featuring candy and people dressed up in a variety of costumes. However, things were a bit different a few thousand years ago.

Halloween originally was a Celtic holiday called Samhain. The Celtic people believed that on the day before Samhain, October 31, the spirits of the dead would return as ghosts. They would leave food and wine outside the door to try to ward them off and wear masks whenever they left the house.

When Christianity got ahold of this, they renamed it All Saint’s Day, or All Hallow’s Day. The night before, still October 31, became All Hallow’s Eve, which was shortened to Halloween.

Wholesome traditions such as souling and guising developed in Medieval Britain. Souling was when the needy would beg for food on November 2, All Soul’s Day. In return for the food, they would pray for the deceased relatives of other people. Guising was when young people would dress up in costumes and collect food, wine, money, and various other offerings in exchange for some sort of entertainment.

In 19th century America, immigrants from Scotland and Ireland brought back these traditions in what is now known as trick-or-treating. Originally, it was more for the tricks than the treats, but it evolved into what it is today in the 1950s.

Halloween has changed a lot over the millennia. It is still celebrated in many places throughout the world.