Halloween, the holiday celebrated on October 31st, is one of the most popular and recognizable holidays worldwide. Although today it is mainly associated with costumes, spooky decorations, and treats, its origins date back to ancient traditions and beliefs that have evolved over time.
Celtic Origins: Samhain
Halloween has its roots in a Celtic festival called Samhain (pronounced “sow-in”), which marked the end of summer and the beginning of winter in Ireland, Scotland, and parts of England over 2,000 years ago. Samhain held deep spiritual and cultural significance for the Celts. They believed that on the night of October 31st, the spirits of the dead returned to Earth and mingled with the living. They had the custom of going from house to house asking for food as an offering to their gods.
Christianization of Samhain
With the arrival of Christianity in the region, the Catholic Church sought to Christianize pagan celebrations. In the 7th century, Pope Boniface IV designated November 1st as All Saints’ Day to honor known and unknown saints. The night before, October 31st, became the “eve of All Saints,” known as “All Hallows’ Eve,” from which the word “Halloween” originated.
“Trick or Treat”: Where Does It Come From?
It is said that during the 16th century in Ireland and Britain, it was customary on Halloween night for children to dress up, sing songs, recite poetry, or say prayers on their behalf in exchange for food, especially “Soul cakes,” which were small cakes with crosses on top called “soul cakes.”
The tradition of saying “trick or treat” on Halloween began during the Great Depression in the United States but gained popularity after World War II when rationing ended, and access to candy became readily available.
During this period, Halloween festivities began to focus on children, who would go door-to-door asking for candy to celebrate. However, the “trick” in “trick or treat” originated as a veiled threat. Children would say “trick or treat” to imply that if they were not given candy, they would play a prank or trick on the household.
Some people gave in to this and provided candy to prevent mischief on their property or damage to their farming equipment, so lawmakers had to address the community to raise awareness that this was meant to be a space for wholesome fun and not vandalism.
Over time, the tradition of tricks became less common, and the phrase evolved into a friendly request for treats. Today, costumed children visit houses, saying “trick or treat,” and residents offer them candy or small gifts.
The Evolution of Halloween
Halloween has evolved significantly over the years. It has gone from a holiday rooted in the observation of natural phenomena and belief in spirits to a commercial celebration featuring elaborate costumes, spooky decorations, and a focus on fun and entertainment.
In many countries, Halloween has become a global holiday with festivals, parades, and themed activities for people of all ages. Carved pumpkins (jack-o’-lanterns), monster costumes, and ghost stories are iconic elements of this holiday.
By: La Isla Magazine