Halloween is a holiday that is celebrated on October 31st, and is popular in the United States, as well as other English-speaking countries. Halloween is associated with ghosts and all-things-scary. A common tradition is carving faces into pumpkins, placing a candle inside of them, and then putting them on the doorstep. Another tradition is to give out candy to children in costumes who go from door to door shouting, “trick or treat!” But where does Halloween and its traditions come from?
Halloween originates from a Celtic holiday celebrated chiefly in Ireland to mark the harvest at the end of summer. It also represented the beginning of the “dark season,” during which spirits roamed the earth. In hopes of scaring off the spirits, the ancient Celts held bonfires. When people started to move into towns, however, they lit smaller fires inside carved turnips and gourds. Irish immigrants brought Halloween to the United States in the nineteenth century, and because gourds and turnips were not as plentiful in North America, they started carving pumpkins instead.
The origin of the children’s activity known as “trick-or-treating” is debated. According to one theory, the ancient Celts would leave food out for the spirits in hopes of appeasing them. However, this caused people to dress up as the spirits in order to get treats! Another theory is that trick-or-treating comes from the Scottish tradition of “souling,” in which children and poor people go door to door saying prayers for the dead in exchange for food or money. Regardless, trick-or-treating, along with other traditions such as carving pumpkins, are now established and beloved Halloween traditions.