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Halloween - Then and Now

Updated on October 5, 2016


Halloween happens on the 31st October each year. It took off in America and became known around the world. People associate Halloween with Trick-or-Treating ( further down below ), lighted pumpkins and basically anything scary.

But how did Halloween come about and why do people do the things they do on the 31st October today. These points will be the focus of this lens.

How did Halloween come about?

Halloween as we know it today came about with influences from three cultures and events dating back thousands of years. It is one of the oldest holidays.

The events are Sanhain, Pomona Day and All Saints . Here are these events in more detail.

1. Pomona Day

The Romans had many custums and celebrated many festivals dating back many centuries. They worshipped various gods including Pomona, who was the goddess of fruits and gardens and a representation of harvest. Pomona was often depicted siiting on a basket of apples.

Pomona Day was one festival held in honour of Pomona and it was celebrated around the first of November.

2. Samhain

an Irish- Gaelic word for the month of November ~ pronounced Sah-ween

In ancient times the Celtic people ( Celts ) lived all over Europe. Their New Year began on November 1st and it marked the first day of winter. On October the 31st crops had to be harvested and stored and livestock needed to be secured for the long winter.

The Celts celebrated the beginning of the New Year starting on the 31st October with a festival lasting several days. This festival was called Samhain in honour of Samhaim, Lord of the Dead.

The Celts believed that death was strongly linked with a long, cold winter and that in winter the ghosts of the dead and the living existed at the same time. They thought that at Samhain the souls of the people who had died during the year would go to heaven. To help with this journey the festival included bonfires, which honoured the dead and the sacrifice of animals , fruit and vegetables. The Celts believed they were surrounded by ghosts, fairies and demons and that cats were a representation of people reincarnated from former lives.

3. All Saints Day

also called All Hallows

All Saints Day was a church holiday taken on the first November. It was formed by the Roman Catholic Church in the middle ages, to honour the saints.

Years later November the second became All Souls Day and was formed to honour the dead , with people in costume partaking in parades and big bonfires.

How These Influences Merged

After the Romans invaded Britain in the first Century and had ruled for hundreds of years, the Roman Pomona Day and the Celtic Samhain festival combined to become one holiday in honour of Pomona and Samhain.

Later, the Christians continued traditions with celebrations of the festivals of Samhain and Pomona Day on October 31st as a time for the wondering dead and the name given to this event became All Hallows Eve. Then the name changed to Hallowe'en to Halloween. The meaning of the word Halloween is "The Night Before the Feast of All Saints"

Halloween Today

Halloween today is fully appreciated in America, Canada, and Quebec.

Other countries have varying opinions and customs relating to it .

For example, in some countries people will not open their doors to trick-or-treaters.

What happens at Halloween Today?

People love to:

~ dress up in costumes and:

- go trick-or-treating, especially children.

- have halloween parties with houses decorated with pumpkin jack-o'lanterns and other creepy decorations.

~ spend time telling ghost stories, listening to spooky music, watching horror movies or going to haunted attractions


This is when people carrying goody bags knock on doors of other peoples houses and say something like "Trick or Treat" or little verses like "Trick or Treat; Smell My Feet; Give Me Something Good To Eat" . These people are usually children and they are in the hope of getting sweets. On their travels around the neighbourhood trick-or-treaters can encounter households asking for a trick or being unresponsive at all. Sometimes there are notices put up saying " No Trick or Treaters Please" But many households get into the spirit of the occasion and have supplies of candy and other relavent food ready for the influx.Trick-or Treaters dress up in spooky attire such as witches, ghosts or even in other costumes of famous characters.

The whole idea of trick-or-treating is thought to have been traced back to the old European custom of Souling where beggars would go to houses asking for food. The household would give food if the beggar prayed for their dead relatives. If lots of people prayed for one person then it would speed up the process of the souls going to heaven. Because it was thought that the souls of the dead were out and about at this time, as well as witches, fairies and demons then people began dressing up like them and combined it with the idea of performing something to people in the hope of getting food. People thought that if they dressed up the evil spirits will not recognise them and will leave them alone..


At halloween pumpkins are carved out on the inside and on the outside to form interesting faces and suchlike.

Inside the pumpkin a candle is placed.

Hence creating a vegetable candle holder.

Why do people do this at Halloween?


The Celts believed that a candle

would help the spirits of their family

members find their way home to

join in with the festivities.


Up until the nineteenth century, people from Ireland, Scotland and England eventually started using carved out vegetables such as turnips to use as candle holders. They carved out a head to frighten off evil spirits.


After this time when immigrants from these countries came to America, the pumpkin started to be used as there were plenty of them around and they were much bigger than the turnip making them easier to carve and create the perfect Halloween candle holder.

Ancient Myth

Jack O'Lantern

Trick-or-treating and the use of Lanterns comes from Ireland.

There is an ancient Irish myth about a farmer called Jack who tricked the devil up a tree and decided to carve a cross in the tree, so the devil could not come back down---until he promised Jack that he would not claim Jack's soul.

A number of years later Jack died and went to heaven. However he was not allowed in because he was not a good character. And he was not allowed into hell either because

the devil was asked not to claim his soul.

Instead, the devil gave Jack some burning ember to

light his way in the darkness. Jack had a carved out

turnip to place the embers in, to help him roam the earth.

Carved turnips led to carved pumpkins because they were more available.

Hence Jack O'Lanterns were formed.

Halloween Conclusion

So as you can see, halloween originated thousands of years ago and has influenced the happenings of halloween today. A few countries like America and Ireland really get involved in it whereas other countries do not.

So Do You Like Halloween?

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