Wednesday, October 27, 2010

History of Halloween - Trick or Treat?

Halloween decorations in front of my house this year.

The origins of Halloween are more typically linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain. (pronounced Sow-an) Samhain was a festival held to denote the end of the summer. For them, the "lighter half" of the year was ending and "darker half" was beginning. They believed that during Samhain the plane between this world and otherworld grew week, allowing spirits, both good and bad, to pas through. To ward off the bad spirits people would disguise themselves as bad spirits themselves so no harm would come to them. Over the years this tradition continued.

The name of Halloween comes from "All Hallow's Eve" which is the night before "All Hallowmas." Hallow in Old English means to sanctify. Nowadays we call the day after Halloween, "All Soul's Day" and it's a day to honor the souls in Heaven in many churches.

The practice of going door-to-door to trick or treat has it's roots in the practice of 'souling.' (which origins are in Britain and Ireland) Children would go door-to-door singing and saying prayers for the dead and they would receive a small cake for their efforts.

My son Joe, and last year's pumpkins

Before there were pumpkins, there were turnips. In more traditional Celtic festivals, large turnips were hallowed out and scary faces were carved into them. They were then placed into windows to ward off evil spirits. When the Irish came to America and discovered pumpkins, they began to use them since pumpkins were bigger and easier to carve.

Author Ruth Edna Kelley wrote a history of Halloween in 1919 and the custom of trick or treating wasn't even mentioned. The term trick or treat didn't appear until 1934 in a Halloween greeting card. Surprisingly, trick or treating in America didn't gain national recognition until the late 1940's after World War II.

Anyone like to share what they do for Halloween?


  1. Hey Steph,

    You carve a mean pumpkin! Seriously, they are cute and so is your little guy.

    I don't go all out for Halloween. We buy candy for Trick or Treaters and I get to hand it out. I love to say "Trick or Treat" as I open the door, which sometimes makes all the little costumed people laugh.

    I enjoy the kids' costumes and the leftover candy.

    Have a happy Halloween!

  2. Steph, I learn so much on your blog. Now I can explain to my granddaughters the meaning and origin of Halloween.

  3. I don't get many trick or treaters here, but Manchester just switched to night time instead of during the day. I don't think it will be as safe in the city, mostly due to the cars, but it was like that when I lived in Vermont, but that was much more rural.

  4. These days, all I do is drop my son off in town so he can walk around with his friends. We're too far out for treaters. We do plan to carve a pumpkin tomorrow, though!

    Nice quick overview. :-)

  5. I love the pumpkins, Steph. They're scary but cute.

    I'll be in transit over Halloween. Hopefully the ghosts won't be able to find me.

  6. Pumpkins are much more appealing than turnips. Can you imagine a turnip pie? Yuck.
    Your son is adorable. And it's great you made the effort to decorate for Halloween. I could only take pictures of people in the neighborhood who decorated and wish I were more organized and creative.

    Morgan Mandel

  7. Maggie, damn those typos! They get me everytime! I like to give out the candy, too, but I have to admit, it's fun to dress up as well.

    Mona, it was interesting to learn! I can't believe trick or treat is less than 70 years old? Get out!

    Aly, thanks for popping in. We don't have any issues w/nighttime trick or treating here, but I'd be interested to see how it does in Manchester.

    Waves hi to Lorraine - enjoy those pumpkins, Sweetie.

    Keena, be safe as you travel - it's Samhain. *wink*

    Morgan, you inspired the post so I thank you. I know - Turnips? Not quite the same thing.

    Waves to all
    Thanks for popping in.

  8. I got a kick wondering around the neighbor hood a seeing the kids running from door to door and looking at all the decorations

  9. Stephen, the kids do a great job with their costumes, too. I'm impressed. Costumes are so much "cooler" now than when I was a kid!