Thursday, October 8, 2015

Halloween History by Kristin Wallace

So we’re in to October now, which means full on Halloween prep is underway. All the fall customs…going to a farm to choose your pumpkin, not to mention the hayrides, hot apple cider, face painting, and caramel apples. Carving a jack-o-lantern, choosing a costume. My mom made several of mine growing up, including a witch, a princess and Pocahontas. There’s trick o’ treating and Halloween parties.

Those are all big traditions of Halloween, at least in the US. But do you know the true history behind the holiday? Where did it come from and why was it celebrated?

In the Beginning
The origin of Halloween is believed to date back over 2,000 years ago and has its roots in the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in) in what is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France. The Celts celebrated their new year on November 1st, which marked the end of summer, and the harvest, and the beginning of winter. The night before, on October 31st, Samhain was celebrated. On that night it was believed that the ghosts of the dead were actually able to walk the earth. To commemorate the event, the Celts dressed up in costumes and built huge bonfires to burn crops and make animal sacrifices. When Samhain was over, they re-lit their hearth fires from the sacred bon fire in order to protect their families during the winter.

By the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1st All Saints’ Day, or All Hallows Eve, a time to honor all saints and martyrs. The holiday incorporated many of the Samhain traditions, including bonfires, parades and dressing up in costumes. Eventually, All Hallows Eve became known as Halloween.

In the US, the more popular traditions we see (such as dressing up & trick or treating) didn’t begin to take shape until the second half the nineteenth century, mostly due to the large influx of Irish immigrants who began arriving in the 1840s. It wasn’t until the 1950s that Halloween evolved into a secular holiday mainly aimed at children.

Check out this webpage for more in-depth history. History Channel - History of Halloween

Halloween Holiday Trivia:

-Jack o’ Lanterns originated in Ireland where people placed candles in hollowed-out turnips to keep away spirits and ghosts on the Samhain holiday.

-If you see a spider on Halloween night, it is thought to be the spirit of a loved one watching over you. 

-It takes an average of 252 licks to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop.

-According to the National Confectioner’s Association, more than 35 million pounds of candy corn will be produced this year.

-Tootsie Rolls were the first wrapped penny candy in America.

-Halloween candy sales average about 2 billion dollars annually in the United States.

-Chocolate candy bars top the list as the most popular candy for trick-or-treaters with Snickers #1.

-Halloween is the 2nd most commercially successful holiday, with Christmas being the first.

-Bobbing for apples is thought to have originated from the roman harvest festival that honors Pamona, the goddess of fruit trees.

-Black cats were once believed to be witch's familiars who protected their powers.

What are your favorite Halloween traditions? Share them here!

Kristin Wallace is the USA Today Best Selling Author of inspirational and contemporary romance,
and women’s fiction filled with “Love, Laughter and a Leap of Faith”. Her latest release is part of the Sweet Christmas Kisses 2 box set, 19 holiday novellas on sale now for only 99 cents. Her contribution to the set is Finding You At Christmas. Visit Kristin’s website at Kristin Wallace Author


  1. What a fun post, Kristin! Thank you! It's always cool to examine the roots of a tradition. I loved Halloween as a kid, and enjoyed making costumes for my children when they were small. They're out of the house now but we still have fun giving out candy. I admit a particular weakness for Snickers Bars and candy corn. It's a good thing I only keep those around in late :)

  2. I find it interesting that in Australia we are celebrating Halloween more each year because that what our American cousins are doing, but most Australians wouldn't have a clue about the origins. Very few homes get into it and if a kid comes trick or treating at my house there won't be any lollies (candy). It will be interesting to see what the next few years bring. I'm sure each year it will get bigger and bigger as the shops drive up sales of all things "American" and "Halloweenish".