ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

A Celtic-Catholic Hodge-Podge of Halloween History: All Saints Day, Trick or Treat, and Why We Do It

Updated on November 3, 2011
Vintage Halloween postcard, c. 1900-1910
Vintage Halloween postcard, c. 1900-1910

A Halloween Hodge Podge

The origins of Halloween extend far back into history, and it can be difficult at times to pinpoint exactly when or where a particular tradition started. The truth is that the customs and rituals associated with fall, the harvest, summers' end, and the coming winter have been around since pre-historic times, when humans quickly learned how to live according to the seasons. Many of our customs, such as making scarecrows, are of an unknown origin.

Below is a list of facts that I've gathered while trying to piece together this complex puzzle of our history.


-References to the tricks and pranks of Halloween, as well as the ghosts associated with the night, can be found dating back to the late 1700's in Scotland.

-Getting dressed up to go trick-or-treating dates back to the Middle Ages. On All Saints' Day, poor people would go from door to door and offer to pray for the dead in exchange for food to help them through the long winter. This practice has been found all over Europe.

-People used to sprinkle salt on the heads of trick-or-treaters to keep evil away from them.

-Halloween costumes come from the Celtic practice of dressing in animal skins to disguise themselves during Samhain. This was to protect them from ghosts and demons.

Children dressed in Halloween Costumes, reasy for trick-or-treating
Children dressed in Halloween Costumes, reasy for trick-or-treating

The British Isles

-Halloween falls on the end of the first half of the Celtic year.

- While many people link Halloween to the Roman festival of the dead (Parentalia), it is more closely related to the Celtic holiday Samhain, meaning "summer's end".

-The word "Halloween" is first found in the 1500's in a Scottish varient of "All Hallow's Evening". The phrase "All Hallow's Evening" started showing up around the same time.

-The carving of jack-o-lanterns started with the custom of hallowing out and carving turnips, which originated in the British Isles. I have read that this started out during Samhain as a way to frighten the ghosts who were believed to wander on All Hallow's Eve, and that after the pagans were converted to Christians, they carried on the tradition as a way to remember the souls in purgatory. Later, immigrants to the Americas used pumpkins for the same purpose, because they are native to the Americas, and are larger and easier to carve than turnips. The American tradition of making jack-o-lanterns was first recorded in the mid- 1800s, and was an activity for the harvest in general, not becoming synonymous with Halloween until much later.

-In Ireland, the Celts would celebrate this night with bonfires, which were made to burn the bones of ritually sacrificed livestock. The word "bonfire" comes from these "bone fires". Bonfires and fireworks are still a big part of the Halloween celebration in this region.

Snap Apple Night, by Irish artist Daniel Maclise, 1833. Shows a Halloween party where people are bobbing for apples in Blarney, Ireland.
Snap Apple Night, by Irish artist Daniel Maclise, 1833. Shows a Halloween party where people are bobbing for apples in Blarney, Ireland.

The Influence of Catholicism

-All Saints Day was created by the Catholic church to convert pagans. On the day that Pagans would traditionally honor their dead ancestors, Catholics created a day to honor both the dead and Catholic saints.

Illustration from Children's book "Halloween at Merryvale, by Alice Hale Burnett, 1916.
Illustration from Children's book "Halloween at Merryvale, by Alice Hale Burnett, 1916.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)