The Origin of Halloween


Photo by Sunset Magazine

Mickle Joseph, Reporter

Every year on the night of October 31st, people of all ages dress up and celebrate the spooky holiday known as Halloween. While vampires and witches are shown in horror movies to inflict fear, kids all across America dress up as these monsters and go around from door to door, saying “trick-or-treat!” in hopes of filling their Jack-o’-lantern buckets and cauldrons with candy. As these kids grow up, they start going to Halloween themed parties instead. However, someday they might have kids of their own and carry out the tradition of taking them around the neighborhood to scavenge for sugary treats. It’s become a tradition for everyone regardless of religion and culture to indulge in Halloween festivities, but not many know where they originate from.

Sophomore Krithi Vemireddy celebrated Halloween, but did not go trick-or-treating this year. Instead, she opted to go to a friend’s house and watch scary movies. When asked about how much she knew about the history of Halloween, Vemireddy said “[she feels] like [she] knows the basics, but not more than that.” When asked to elaborate on what “ the basics” meant she said “that it started out as a way of religions trying to protect themselves from demons, but then it turned into kids dressing up, going out, and getting treats, but it started out as protection from scary things.”

When sophomore Mia Naimi was asked about how much of the history of Halloween did she know about, the answer sounded pretty close to what Vemireddy said. “All I know is that people used to wear costumes to scare off ghosts and that’s why witch and ghost costumes were really scary and used a lot, because [they were] supposed to be reasons to scare,” Naimi said. Both are somewhat correct, but are missing a few details.

According to, Halloween originated from the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, the Celtic New Years Eve, where people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints. Soon, All Saints Day incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The night before All Saints Day was known as All Hallows Eve, which is now more commonly known as Halloween. 

Samhain marked the day as the end of the summer and the harvest and the beginning of the winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. They believed on October 31st, the ghosts of the dead would return to earth. They thought the Druids, members of the high-ranking class in ancient Celtic cultures, would be able to predict the future easier with the presence of these ghosts, so they would hold a sacred bonfire and dress up in animal skins and heads as a ritual. 

Trick-or-treating was originally a European tradition that Americans adopted in the 1840s. They began to dress up in costumes and would go house to house asking for food and money. Over time, candy was being given out instead. This tradition was named “Trick-or-Treating.”

Whether you are going to a friend’s house to watch horror movies or you’re dressing up to go door to door to ask for candy, there’s a lot of history behind the night some might call All Hallows Eve. October 31st is an invitation for people of all ages to come together and dress up as pop culture icons or horror movie monsters. It’s a tradition that has been upheld for centuries and there’s no sign of the next generation stopping, so neither should you. Rock your costumes and don’t be afraid to knock on someone’s door to say “Trick-or-Treat!”