Happy Fright Night: The True Origins of Halloween


Evamarie Dietrich, Brimstone Reporter

Everyone knows what Halloween is; A night of spooky stories, candy, dressing up, scary movies, and late-night costume parties. But where did the traditions come from? Well, the name “Halloween” derives from “All Hallows Eve”, which means a Hallowed Evening. Halloween also has roots in Celtic traditions, one of which was The Festival of Samhain, which later became Halloween. 


The Festival of Samhain was a way to celebrate the end of the harvest season and to welcome the winter. During the Festival of Samhain, people would dress up as scary mythical creatures to ward off evil spirits. The Celts believed that at the end of this harvest season, the line between life and death became blurred. When the cold and dark winter arrived, they thought ghosts were being let in from the other side. Since the Celts thought that the ‘barrier’ was unstable, they believed this would allow Druids and Witches to tell fortunes easier. They would sit around a big bonfire wearing animal heads and skins while the druids and witches would tell their fortunes to provide comfort during the long winter.


As the years went by, the Roman Empire conquered the Celts and warped their traditions, including the Festival of Samhain. The Romans instead used the day to remember those who had passed on and to celebrate them. One of their activities was “Bob for Apples”, which has continued to be a very popular party game. 


Another popular Halloween tradition was Trick or Treating. People would dress up as saints and go knocking door to door all night. However, there is a deeper historical meaning to Trick or Treating. The word ‘trick’ usually refers to mischief or threats directed towards the owner of the house if they do not provide treats, but the first Trick or Treaters were beggars asking for food or money in exchange for a prayer for lost loved ones. Back then it was called Souling, but as traditions evolved, the custom became known as Trick or Treating to provide a more kid-friendly theme.


As you can see, over time we’ve forgotten the true origins of Halloween, but we can still take something from them. Maybe you prefer the Celts’ folklore and plan on gathering to listen to fortunes in the firelight. Perhaps you’re looking forward to lavish festivals in honor of lost loved ones, or welcoming spirits back to the physical world. Halloween has a different meaning for everyone, after all; Some people enjoy the frights, and others, the warm company of friends. Now that you know the truth of Halloween’s past, remember to make the most of this spooktacular holiday, and may the ghost be with you on this spooky night.