Today’s Lesson: The History of Halloween


Eve Ruybal, Author

On October 31, 2022, millions of people around the country will celebrate Halloween, ringing in the holiday with costumes, pumpkin carving, and trick-or-treating. 

According to the History Channel, Celtic paganism was one of many Iron Age polytheistic cults in Europe; the origin of Halloween can be traced to the ancient Samhain festival. The festival of Samhain, which translates as “summer’s end,” marks the conclusion of the harvest season and the approach of winter.

The Celtics believed that the ghosts of the dead came back to earth on October 31, the night of Samhain.

For the purpose of serving as a reminder of the event, Druids built sacred bonfires, and people gathered around them to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic gods. The Celts attempted to tell one another’s fortunes (typically the priests) while dressing up in costumes made typically of animal heads and skins.

During Samhain, the Celts also sought seclusion to stay away from the ghosts who roamed the Earth. The Celts dressed in disguises in order to avoid being recognized by spirits.

The United States experienced a large influx of immigration starting in the middle of the 19th century, including millions from Ireland. The result was that in the 20th century, Halloween gained popularity as one of the major holidays in the nation, especially among kids.

 The stigma connected to Halloween and witches was replaced in the early 1900s by family friendly get-togethers, celebrations, and parades. The costume business expanded alongside Halloween’s popularity.

 Trick-or-treating for candy had grown in popularity by the 1950s, and today Halloween is one of the greatest candy-selling holidays in the United States.


Photo by Truitt Lemon.