Halloween is the time of tricks and treats, costumes, and scary stories shared around a fire pit. It’s the time of year when the weather turns cooler in the northern hemisphere; folks watch spooky movies, carve jack-o-lanterns, and adorn their homes with festive holiday decorations inside and out. Where did these autumn traditions begin and what do they mean?

2000 years ago…

The roots of Halloween can be found in the Gaelic observance of Samhain (SAH-WIN) meaning summers end, which was observed on October 31st. It was a celebration of the end of harvest. It wasn’t about ghosts walking the earth, witches flying through the sky, or goblins…gobbling—it signaled the beginning of preparation for the coming winter months.

All Saints Day

This celebration, also known as All Hallows Eve, was held on November 1st. It was an evening when spirits were said to roam the earth playing tricks on folks. Spirits could be fooled and therefore avoided by disguising oneself in animal skins and heads. This practice, observed by Druids, may be the origin of donning costumes on Halloween eve.

IT came from across the water     

Irish immigrants brought the tradition of Halloween to America in the 19th century and by the mid-20th it was part of our culture. As early as the 1880’s pranks were pulled on unsuspecting folks come Halloween; outhouses were tipped, farms gates opened allowing livestock to run free, and houses were egged. In an effort to curtail pranks, adults turned to bribing youth to spare them—hence the tradition of trick or treating was born.

What Traditions do you observe?

Do you and the kids dress up and trick or treat your neighbors, friends, and family? In recent years the adult Halloween party, more often held on a weekend evening, has become a time to dress up and let the proverbial hair down. Others prefer a quiet time in the backyard at the bon-fire roasting hot dogs and marshmallows. For the past 13 years, my wife and I, have photographed the neighborhood children in costume and shared the developed photos with the kids and parents the following year. This year it might be time to set the stage with a spooky backdrop and let everyone take and share photos from their smartphones. How do you observe Halloween?

If you’d like to read further about the history of Halloween check out this post from LiveScience.com.