I did a little research to answer this question and found it to be interesting. Many times we accept traditions without knowing or caring to know how and why they started.
Origins of Halloween
It is believed that Halloween originated with a Celtic festival called Samhain celebrated on October 31st. This was a festival where the people would dress up in costumes to ward off evil spirits.
The Celts believed that on October 31st the spirits of the dead returned to earth. They also believed that aside from damaging crops and causing problems, the spirits, or ghosts, help the Druids make predictions about the future (also know as witch craft). The Celts would wear animal heads as part of their costumes and attempt to tell each others fortune.
The Romans added their traditions into this mix from two different festivals. One is a festival honoring the passing of the dead and another festival to the goddess of fruit and trees, introducing bobbing for apples as part of the October 31st celebrations.
Pope Boniface IV decided to honor all Christian martyrs, which was later expanded into including al
l saints by Pope Gregory III and moved from May to November 1st, which is now known as All Saints Day. All Saints Day was also called All-Hallows Day. This made the day before All-Hallows Eve, which is now commonly known as Halloween. The Catholic church also added November 2nd as All Souls day to honor the dead to replace the Celts Samhian festival.
Halloween slowly came to American (Mostly to the south-east due to heavy Protestant beliefs in the north-east) and mixed with Native American cultures. A more distinct tradition began to form. These traditions were celebrations of harvest that included ghost stories, music, dancing, fortune-telling and mischief-making.
The increase of immigration due to the potato famine in Ireland, helped nationalize Halloween.
Americans began dressing up and going door to door for food and money. Later, people wanted Halloween to be more about community and being neighborly than about witchcraft, ghosts and trouble making. Parents were pressing the newspapers to take out anything spooky and gory. This was when Halloween began losing its superstitions
Years ago, instead of handing out candy, people would put food and wine out to keep the ghosts of the dead happy. Mostly, Halloween today is celebrated as families walk from house to house to get treats. Kids dress up on a range of costumes from angels to monsters, from funny to scary and anything else in between.
How much to you think American’s spend each year on candy for Halloween? Do you participate in either trick-or-treating or handing out candy? Do you know the origins of jack-o-lanterns?