The History of Halloween


A.J. Hargett

As we all know Halloween is a holiday that is practiced by many Americans and by many people all over the world. It is well known for dressing up in costumes and going around to houses and collecting candy. Halloween is a long practiced holiday that has been influenced by many different cultures and has evolved over the centuries into what it is now. However, its practices have changed quite a bit since its inception.

Halloween was originally a religious holiday that was practiced starting in the 4th century on the eve of the Christian holiday All Hallows Day or All Saints Day, a day in which all Christians honor and celebrate famous Christian martyrs and saints. One of the main celebrations in these three days of celebration called Allhallowtide was to hold a large feast to commemorate all of the saints. As the holiday changed with time it would begin to incorporate concepts such as celebrating the recently departed. This was done by the ringing of church bells and the custom of baking and sharing “soul cakes” which is considered to be the origin of trick or treating. Another practice that would be implemented in the holiday was the wearing of costumes to ward off vengeful spirits. The wearing of a mask or costume was believed to allow the wearer to avoid a vengeful spirit seeking revenge before they could move on to the next world.

During the Protestant Reformation and the reign of Elizabeth I, many of the fundamental religious aspects of the holiday were abolished and much of the purpose of the holiday was redefined to fit the Calvinist doctrine of thought. All of these changes would eventually lead to a change in the celebration as a whole.

Halloween has been shaped by many different cultures and has evolved over the decades but a lot of its influence can be traced back to the Celtic speaking countries of Europe as a lot of the Celtic traditions evolved alongside the Christian ones and in some cases would merge together. Halloween could be considered as one of these occasions as some parts of Halloween are rooted in Celtic and Gaelic traditions. Even though it originally started as a religious holiday it has changed very much over the course of its history into what it is today.