The History Behind Halloween

Ah Halloween… It’s that time of the year again when we get to dress up in spooky costumes and trick or treat. But where did the spooky day come from and why do we celebrate it?

Article by Depi Tzini

What is the history behind Halloween?

Halloween or Hallowe’en also known as Allhalloween, All Hallows’ Eve, or All Saints’ Eve, is said to be based on Celtic traditions, and in particular the celebration of Samhain, which in old Irish means “late summer”. The Celts on the 31st of October celebrated the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the winter. It is also said that on this particular day we come closer to the “other world” – that we can come in contact with spirits and the dead.

The colors associated with the celebration are orange and black. Orange symbolizes the autumn harvest and the black; death or the “other world”. Halloween celebration began in Europe, but it is now known to the world through American culture. The immigration of the Irish and the Scots in the 19th century was the catalyst for the holiday to become popular.

Why do we “trick or treat” on Halloween?

On this day, the custom “trick or treat” was established, which has young children disguising themselves and going door-to-door gathering candy. The origins of the custom dates back to the 16th century when Irish, Scottish and Welsh people masked and visited several houses, recited poems or even whole songs in exchange for food. They represented the old deities of winter that demanded deeds in exchange for good luck.

Another explanation given for the custom of masquerading is that they believed the souls of the dead were wandering upon the Earth until the Day of All Saints. In the evening before Halloween, the souls had their last chance to avenge whoever did them harm while they were alive, so those who thought there was reason to worry were disguised to mislead those who were seeking revenge. Children’s masks are usually inspired by non-human creatures or human creatures possessing superpowers like witches and vampires.

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