The origins of our favorite Halloween traditions

Halloween has been and always will be my favorite holiday of the year. So much so, that I participate in, “Spooky Season” activities year-round. Sadly, with COVID-19 forever changing our lives, we can’t celebrate Halloween the same way we have in the past.

Don’t worry though, there are still many ways you can make Halloween fun in 2020. One of the ways I’ve been staying spooky this season is learning about the origins behind the Halloween traditions that we partake in.

The origins behind Halloween have always piqued my interest. However, I’ve never gone out of my way to learn about them, but now I have nothing else to do. To know more about why we celebrate these Halloween traditions, we must go back to the roots of Halloween.

Originally, Halloween was a Celtic festival called Samhain, where people would gather around a bonfire and wear costumes to ward off spirits. Later, Pope Gregory III declared Nov. 1 as All Saints Day, in which people celebrated and honored all the saints. Finally, people began to incorporate some of the Celtic traditions into a holiday, called All Hallows Eve, which took place the day before All Saints Day, Oct. 31.

The history of Halloween is deeper than this though. The Holiday itself is symbolic of death. Celts celebrated Halloween because it represented the coming winter and the death of life on earth. For more information, if you are interested, I’d highly recommend reading’s story over Halloween 2020 and Ancient origins of Halloween.

One of the many Halloween traditions that the Celts created was carving Jack-O’-Lanterns. The activity itself was created based on the legend of “Stingy Jack”. The legend says that Stingy Jack invited the Devil to the pub for a drink, but once it came time to pay, Stingy Jack decided instead to convince the Devil to turn himself into a coin to pay with. The Devil did just that, but after the devil turned into a coin Stingy Jack put him in his pocket next to a silver cross. There, he could no longer change back into his true form.

Eventually, Stingy Jack let the Devil go under the condition that he leave Stingy Jack alone for one year and when he dies, to not steal his soul. The Devil agreed to this, but when Stingy Jack died God would not let him into heaven due to his unpleasant character. Stingy Jack then went to hell, but the Devil would not take his soul as promised. Instead the Devil sent him on his way with a burning piece of coal to wander the dark for eternity. It is said that Stingy Jack carved out a turnip and placed the coal inside to create a lantern. Over time people began to carve scary faces into turnips, and then eventually pumpkins.

Another activity that was passed down from Celtic tradition was dressing in scary costumes and trick-or-treating. During Halloween the Celts believed that ghosts wondered the earth more frequently and would terrorize people. To avoid this, the Celts would dress up in scary costumes in hopes of being mistaken for a spirit and left alone.

The origins of trick-or-treating is debated, because of the many different starts to the tradition. The Celts would place food out on their doorstep as an offering to the spirits, and eventually people would come in their costumes and take the food. The American way of trick-or-treating though, started in German-American communities. The kids would dress up in costumes and have the elders in their community guess who they were. If the elders couldn’t guess their identities, they would often give the kids treats for their success.

One of these treats is candy corn. Candy corn, originally called chicken feed, was created in the 1880’s as a year-round candy. Eventually the tri colored candy was adopted into spooky season due to its harvest festival colors.

A disturbing Halloween myth that should be squashed is the myth that black cats are bad luck. The most common belief about black cats comes from the medieval times where people believed that witches could turn themselves into black cats. When witches would be burned at the stake, their cats would be burned with them.

Somewhere along the timeline the mere idea of seeing a black cat became bad luck. Some believe that if you turn your back on a black cat you’ll be cursed, or if a black cat is on the bed of a sick person they will bring death. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Black cats are sweet family pets and have never been linked to a real case of bad luck.

Although celebrating Halloween the way we normally do is not an option during COVID-19, learning the traditions behind our favorite Halloween activities is one of many ways we can stay spooky this season. Maybe this year you can try carving a turnip instead of a pumpkin. More information about these traditions can be found at: halloween/history-of-halloween

www.achildgrows. com/2019/10/27/why-do-we-eatcandy-corn-on-halloween/ article/58341/origins-15spooky-halloween-traditions