Halloween is celebrated annually on October 31st (Credit: Pixexid.com/ CC-By-SA-4.0)

Halloween, celebrated annually on October 31st, is filled with eerie costumes, spooky decorations, and sweet treats. While the holiday has evolved into a festive, commercial occasion, its roots run deep in history. Let's explore the origins of Halloween and some of the fun customs associated with it.

The holiday's origin

Halloween's roots can be traced back to the Celtic festival of Samhain. The Celts were a group of people that lived in what is now Ireland and parts of France over 2,000 years ago. They believed that the spirits of the dead returned to Earth on Samhain. To appease them and protect themselves from harm, they lit bonfires and wore costumes made from animal heads and skins.

Image from The Book of Halloween (1919) showing several Halloween activities, such as nut roasting (Credit: Ruth Edna Kelle/ Public domain/ Wikimedia Commons)

The Romans took over the Celtic territory in 390 BC. They adopted the traditions in AD 1000 for All Souls' Day by dressing up as saints, devils, and angels. The celebration was initially held on November 2nd. However, it was later moved to October 31st and renamed All-Hallows. This later evolved into Halloween.

The holiday was introduced in America in the mid-1800s. It was an instant hit with residents of the Southern Colonies. They marked the day by sharing ghost stories, dancing, and singing to remember the deceased. By the end of the century, Halloween's popularity had spread across the US.


Trick-or-treating can be credited to the Roman All Souls' Day. On this day, residents in need would knock on the doors of the wealthy and offer a prayer for their dead in exchange for "soul cakes." "Souling," as it was called, took a twist when Irish and Scottish kids, dressed in costumes, started getting treats for singing or reciting poems. Immigrants from the two countries introduced the fun custom to America in the early 20th century, and the rest, as they say, is history!

The most popular Halloween candy by state (Credit: Candystore.com/ CC-BY-SA-2.0)

The original treats of choice were fruit, nuts, coins, and small toys. In the 1950s, candy companies introduced small, individually wrapped confections during Halloween. That helped increase sales. But candy did not become the dominant treat until the 1970s after parents began to fear accepting anything unwrapped. Today, over 600 million pounds (272 million kg) of candy are sold yearly on Halloween! The holiday accounts for about 10 percent of annual candy sales. It yields manufacturers over $2.6 billion every year.


The Irish started the tradition of carving lanterns during Halloween (Credit: Pixexid.com/ CC-By-SA-4.0)

No Halloween is complete without a spooky jack-o'-lantern. This fun custom was started by the Irish. They carved lanterns from turnips and potatoes to ward off evil spirits. When the immigrants arrived in America, they discovered pumpkins. Since then, the orange gourds have become the fruit of choice.

Candy corn

Candy corn became popular after the Goelitz Confectionery Company began mass production in the 1880s. The candy maker initially marketed the treat as "Chicken Feed." They sold it in a box featuring a rooster with the tagline, "Something worth crowing for."

Candy corn became the treat of choice in the 1950s (Credit: Evan-Amos/ Public domain/ Wikimedia Commons)

However, around 1950, people began to hand out candy corn to trick-or-treaters. The harvest-themed sweets were especially popular in rural America, and a new tradition was born. Today, nearly 35 million pounds (15.8 million kg) of candy corn is sold during Halloween.

Have a spooktacular Halloween!

Resources: History.com, libraryofcongress.gov, Wikipedia.org