The History of Halloween

Posted October 31, 2014 by Amanda | No Comment

Happy Halloween! A yearly celebration in many countries, Halloween is a fun holiday filled with candy, costumes and parties. But do you know where these Halloween activities originated?


From Samhain to Halloween

The origin of Halloween dates back the Celtic harvest festival Samhain, which was annually celebrated on November 1. During this time, it was believed spirits or fairies could more easily come into our world. Bonfires were lit and offerings of food and drink were left in order to ward off any ghosts. People wore masks outside the home to trick any wandering dark spirits into believing they too were one of the dead.

In the eighth century, the Christian church designated November 1 as All Saints Day or All Hallows Day, and incorporated many of the traditions of Samhain. The night before was called All Hallows’ Eve, or Halloween.

Costumes and Trick-or-Treating

The tradition of dawning costumes on Halloween dates back to the English medieval custom of “souling.” Soul cakes to commemorate the dead were traditionally made during All Hallows’ Eve. The poor, dressed in costume, would knock on doors from house-to-house to ask for food. Soul cakes were given in exchange for singing and saying prayers for the dead.


Souling on All Hallows Eve

The similar tradition of “guising,” in which people would go door-to-door in disguise, was practiced in Scotland and Ireland. Traditional gifts came in the form of food or coins.

In the late 19th century, the festivities became popular in the United States after a flood of Irish immigrants brought along these customs. The practice of dressing up and going door-to-door asking for candies was picked up quickly and became known as “trick-or-treating.” By the 20th century, Halloween parties for adults and children became the most common way to celebrate.


Today, communities celebrate by throwing large gatherings, parades and costume parties. Children go trick-or-treating, enjoy pumpkin carvings and bobbing for apples.

What’s your favorite Halloween activity?

Post written by Amanda

Amanda is the Marketing Communications Manager at Geni. If you need any assistance, she will be happy to help!

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