Second only to Christmas for many, Halloween is one of the world’s most popular holidays. On October 31st each year people from many parts celebrate Halloween, or ‘All Hallows Eve’, but it’s in North America that the holiday maintains its highest level of popularity.
Halloween is a time of celebration and superstition, dating back hundreds of years to pagan times, where the end of the harvest season was marked with the festival of Samhain.
In the beginning, it was all about keeping ghosts and ghouls away, but now the holiday is a time for fun, putting on costumes, trick-or-treating, and themed parties.
October 31st is the last day of the Celtic calendar. On this day, Christians would honor the saints and pray for spirits who hadn’t yet reached heaven.
Traditional hallmarks of Halloween are dressing up in costumes, consuming sweets, trick or treating in costume, carving jack-o-lanterns and telling spooky ghost stories.
Trick or treating started in Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, and it involved groups dressing up in costumes and knocking on doors asking for food. The groups would sing songs and read poems in exchange for things to eat.
The name ‘trick or treat’ was first used in America in 1929 after immigrants took traditions surrounding the day overseas. Later children would play threatening pranks on people to get them to hand over sweets.
Some families carve lanterns with ‘scary’ faces out of pumpkins or other vegetables, and decorate their homes and gardens in Halloween style. These were traditionally intended to ward off evil spirits.
Irish immigrants brought the tradition of decorating “jack-o’-lanterns” to America, and it soon became an integral part of Halloween festivities.
In modern times Halloween is extremely popular with kids of all ages; 85 to 90 percent of U.S. children go trick-or-treating, or engage in other Halloween festivities every year.