The History and Evolution of Halloween

It’s everyone’s favourite holiday. Why wouldn’t it be? We get to dress up as something completely ridiculous and eat candy all day!

But haven’t you ever wondered where this tradition came from, and how it evolved into dressing up as a sexy (insert completely non-sexy object/profession here)?

Today we’ll be having a little history lesson about Halloween and how the holiday has changed over the years.

Let’s get started!

The Initial Conception

The concept of Halloween can be credited to the Celts, almost 2000 years ago.

Don’t worry, I also had no idea who the Celts were. They were a collection of tribes spread across Europe, mainly what is now France, Britain, Spain and Ireland.

The Celts celebrated the end of summer and the beginning of the dark winter on November 1st. It was called ‘Samhain.’ They believed that on the night before this day, October 31st, the line between the living and the dead was at its thinnest.

They believed that for that one night, the spirits and ghosts of the dead returned to Earth, but only for one day.

They also said that this night was especially important for prophecies made to predict the future. So they lit gigantic bonfires, and burnt crops and animals as sacrifices to the dead spirits.

Why do we wear halloween costumes?

In addition to sacrificing their livestock and harvest, the Celts would wear animal skins or heads to try to scare off the evil and supernatural spirits. This might be where the idea of wearing costumes today comes from.

Nowadays, the only thing that your ‘sexy doctor’ costume is scaring away is a date.

Why do we associate bats with halloween?

According to my research, it’s as simple as the fact that because the Celts lit such huge bonfires, the light would attract bugs. The bugs would in turn attract bats; and the bats attracted fear and speculation of bad omens.

It kind of sucks that bats have obtained such a terrible reputation just because they were attracted to their prey! Sadly, because of this terrible reputation, several species of bats have become endangered. The sadder part is that they’re actually really cute!

Why do kids go trick or treating?

Before the festival, large groups of people would go from house to house, collecting food and fuel for the sacrificial bonfires. Eventually, as the Celts were taken over by the Romans and their customs fizzled out, so did the idea of the bonfires.

However, the tradition stuck, eventually evolving into the modern tradition of kids going from door to door to collect candy.

As Halloween became more and more westernised, so did the method of collecting candy. In the late 1930s, local kids would knock on every door in the neighbourhood and demand candy in exchange for not vandalising the homes.

Therefore, the entire tradition of handing out candy on Halloween can pretty much be attributed to adults not wanting to be extorted and manipulated by young children.

Where does the name ‘Halloween’ come from?”

As the Catholic Church slowly began to take over Europe, it also began to influence its culture. ‘Samhain’ was eventually merged with a Christian tradition, “All Saints Day.”

Since both of these traditions had similar themes of the spirits of the dead, they were somewhat merged and named ‘Hallowmas.”

‘Hallow’ is derived from the fact that the day is spiritual and holy in nature; and ‘mas’ is derived from the idea that the day is a sacrifice for the dead.

This name eventually evolved into what we know as Halloween.

The concept of jack-o’-lanterns and pumpkins

Jack-O’-Lanterns are one of the most iconic aspects of Halloween. The most widely accepted origin story is that the Celts would also put carved turnips and pumpkins outside their house to once again, scare away evil spirits.

I guess the turnips eventually just became too expensive!

You might be asking yourself- why murder pumpkins and not some other vegetable like… carrots?

They say that since pumpkins didn’t grow very well in Europe, the hardness of the outer layer made it optimal for carving. Just bad luck for them I guess…


Thank you for reading! Stay tuned till my next blog post for another Halloween themed post!

Check out my latest blog posts here:

Until Next Time.

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