The Origin of Halloween (and Halloween Candy)

The origin of Halloween and the origin of Halloween candy!

Halloween Origin

Halloween dates back thousands of years to Celtic harvest festivals and the Gaelic festival of Samhain. For the Celts, the new year fell on the first of November. The Celts believed that the boundary between the world of the living and the world of the dead became blurry the evening before the new year, October 31st. On what is now Halloween, the Celts believed the spirits of the dead visited the word of the living. While here, the dead got into all kinds of mischief. In response, the druids built big bonfires as part of the harvest celebration (for the living and the dead). Ancient Celts dressed up in costumes, like wolf skins, as part of the Samhain rituals.

Put a smile on all their faces with Sweet Halloween Treats, No Trick!

Halloween Store

Later, after the Romans took over the Celtic territory, the holiday blended with Roman celebrations and beliefs. In 1000 A.D., the Catholic church declared November 2nd “All Souls Day”—a similarly timed celebration to commemorate those who had passed. All Souls Day was also called All-Hallows, or All-Hallows Day and Eve, from the Middle English term Alholowmesse. As you probably guessed, this is the origin of the name Halloween.

American origin of Halloween

Thousands of years have passed since the days of Celtic bonfires and priestly parades celebrating the dead. You can thank American diversity for the way we celebrate Halloween today. As different people and traditions mixed together in our big American melting pot, Halloween transformed. Bobbing for apples (and caramel apples) is a leftover of a Roman tradition. In Rome the apple was added as the symbol of the goddess Pomona. Ghost stories were introduced in colonial cities. Seasonal pumpkins became emblematic of Halloween fun. And, unlike in previous times, Halloween became more commonly associated with children at play.

The potato famine, which drove an estimated 1 to 1.5 million Irish immigrants to America, invigorated the celebration of Halloween. Although most Irish immigrants did not practice druidic religions, they brought over the folklore and traditions of Celtic forbearers. The origin of Halloween - Jack O LanternsThe Celts were their ancestors, even if most didn’t practice druidic religions. The origin of “Trick-or-Treat” is uniquely American and came during this period (1845-1855). Irish immigrants also brought a few other favorite Americanized traditions. The folklore of “Stingy Jack”, for instance, features a carved turnip that holds a coal and serves as a lantern for Jack. Jack is the epitome of the soul that has not moved on. (He is also a trickster who lures people towards ill-fates.) Having struck a bargain with the devil, Jack is stuck wandering in the dark of purgatory, unable to get into heaven because of his sins. The Irish immigrants brought the tradition of carving turnips to America—only pumpkins made a lot more sense in the New World, and so, the jack-o-lantern was born.

Around the turn of the twentieth century, there was a cultural shift. Halloween celebrations continued to have costumes, but the focus became less about the mischief made by impish ghosts and pranks. Superstitions were abandoned. Instead, Americans wanted Halloween to be about good times and community. With that, the Halloween party was born.

By the Roaring Twenties, Halloween parties were entirely free of spooky spirits and religious ceremony.

How did Halloween candy come to be a tradition?

Halloween Candy from the History of HalloweenWhen trick-or-treating originated, there was no candy involved. (Ghastly, isn’t it?)

Trick-or-treating evolved in stages—borrowing from the traditions of immigrants who came together in the United States. Originally, the Celtic ceremony included sacrificing food for the gods and leaving “treats” out for otherwise mischievous spirits. During All Souls Day parades in England, the poor would go door to door asking for money or food.

Don’t worry, we have your Halloween candy and treats covered—especially the chocolate!

The origin of the Halloween costume

Dressing up in Halloween costumes originated from times when the dead were rumored to walk among the living. The Celts mostly dressed as animals, so, how did it all the little devils and scary monsters emerge?

The Celts were not quite as scared of spirits as later Christian cultures. In fact, many cultures in addition to theirs believed that the returning souls of loved ones should be welcome. They even set an extra place at the table with food and drink.

The History of Halloween Treats

The devil—and therefore witches and demons—were not known to ancient pagans. As Halloween entered Rome and eventually Christian cultures, the idea of the spirits roaming the earth became much scarier. Superstitions arose. The ghost story evolved. Not being recognized by the troublesome spooks that came to visit the living on Halloween became more of an ominous consideration. There were witch-crazes all through the Middle Ages and right into the early American colonies.

On All Hallows Eve, throughout Catholic Ireland and Christian England, people protected themselves from the spirits by donning a mask or disguise. That way, maybe the impish ghouls and ghosts would mistake the living for something else… Something more like them.

Read The Accidental Origin of the Caramel Apple! An amusing history of a treat that came after the trick-or-treating.