The Scariest Night of the Year?

Halloween Witch peeking out from side of image

In some countries, Halloween is celebrated on 31 October. This occurs on the day of the Western Christian celebrations of All Hallow’s Day. It starts the all-day holiday dedicated to honouring the dead. Halloween activities include trick or treating, carved pumpkins to jack-o’-lantern shapes, playing pranks, playing scare scenes and watching scary movies. According to historians, Halloween was purely a Christian event that coincided with All Saint’s Day celebrations. In the 19th century, Irish and Scottish immigrants took many Halloween customs to North America.


Halloween carved pumpkins

Jack-o-lanterns were traditionally carried around to frighten and defeat evil spirits at All Hallow’s Eve. The popular Irish Christian fairy tale associated with the Jack-O-lantern symbolically represents a soul denied entry into both Heaven and Hell. Costumes depict horror themes such as death, evil and mythical monsters. America’s tradition of carving pumpkins was first identified in 1837 and was initially associated with harvest in general. At this period, pumpkin carving was not officially associated with Halloween until the mid-to-late 19th century. The modern Halloween image is popularised by various sources, including the Christian eschatology national customs and Gothic and horror literature.

Around the world

In Scotland and Ireland, the traditional Halloween parade includes kids dressed in costumes, parties and lighting of bonfires. Children played practical jokes by lighting lanterns inside skeleton skulls in the cemetery to scare visitors. Mass transatlantic migration in the 19th century popularized Halloween in North America. This greater North American influence extended to countries such as Ecuador, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, and (mostly) continental Europe, Finland, Japan and other parts of East Asia. In the United States and Canada, the celebration has significance for how the event was seen across many nations.

Christian religious observances

In Poland, believers once were urged to prayer while wandering the forests to find comfort for their lives. In Spain, the church choir in small villages toll their church bells to remind their congregant to commemorate the dead on All Hallows Eve. Some Christians have reservations about the advent of Halloween as it trivialises or celebrates the traditions of pagan worship or other cultural phenomena deemed incompatible with it. Christianity’s attitudes to Halloween vary today: In the Anglican Church, some dioceses are choosing to emphasise Christian traditions associated with the day. In addition to giving candy to children trick-or-treating in preparation for All Hallows Eve.

The history of Halloween activities

The early pagan season of Samhain involved various ritualistic ceremonies for reconnection with spirits. With the spread of Christianity under the influence of paganism, this holiday was gradually reduced. The early mystical rituals developed into more lighthearted fun and games. For example, in the Christmas season, bobbing for apples became popular as a magical tale. There are additionally reports about earlier fortune cookie favours. People placed words onto pieces of paper coated with milk and folded the notes into walnut-sized shells. The shells would be heated around a hot fireplace causing milk to turn dark so that a message could magically appear on the paper.

History of Trick-or-Treat

Young girls believed at Halloween, they could divine the name and appearance of their future husband by doing tricks with yarn, apples or mirrors. At the turn of the century, Halloween festivities for adults and children became the most popular way of celebrating the day. Halloween festivities focused on games, food of the season and festive costumes. It had become easier by the 1800s in American culture to transform Halloween into a holiday more about community or friendly get-togethers than about ghosts, pranks and witchy pranks. The practice that ultimately became the present “trick-or-treat – tradition” originated from European traditions.

Black cats and ghosts on Halloween

Halloween is an annual holiday filled with mystery, humour and lords. It started as a Celtic End of Summer Festival during which people felt especially close to deceased relatives and friends. Nowadays, Halloween ghosts are often depicted as frightening and demonised, and our customs and superstitions are scarier. We avoid walking with black cats for fear that they are bringing us harm. We do not like to climb up ladders. Egyptians believe triangles are holy and might explain why we consider walking under a ladder unsafe. And especially at Halloween, we try not to break on mirrors, step on cracks in roads or spill salt.

Games and other activities

Some Halloween games have originated from rituals of foretelling oneself about death, marriage/childhood, among many others. This ritual was done in the Middle Ages by a few in rural areas. In recent centuries these games had been a common feature of household celebrations in Ireland and Britain. This usually involves apples and hazelnuts. In Ireland, the future told would be placed in food – usually cakes – and portions of the food offered randomly.


On All Hallow’s Eve, many Western Christian beliefs discourage meat addiction. Halloween occurs following the apple harvest. Candy apples are commonly sold at Halloween when the whole fruit is rolled in sugar syrup. In some cases, candy apples were often given to children trick-or-treating, but they gradually waned. One custom that remains in modern-day Ireland is the baking (or, more frequently nowadays, the purchasing) of a barmbrack, a light fruitcake, in which a plain circle or a coin is inserted.


Costume decorating and going out dressed up was widespread in Scotland and Ireland at the end of the nineteenth century. In the mid-century, costume design became popular in America both at Halloween parties for adults and children. Since the late 2010s ethnic stereotypes of costumes have been increasingly scrutinised in the US. The annual New York Village Halloween parade is the world’s largest Halloween and America’s only major nighttime parade that draws nearly 50,000 costumed participants and two million spectators.

Halloween parties

By 1920 and 1930, Halloween became a secular but community-centric holiday. In turn, trick-or-treat practices have been revived over the decades for decades. Americans now spend around $6 billion on Halloween each year. So Halloween is the second biggest holiday in the United States to Christmas. Halloween is a relatively cheap way to share a community holiday with everyone. Families could even stop the kids from playing tricks by placing small treats around the area. Thus the American tradition of Halloween is established, and continues to grows every year with people who spend $6 billion.

Haunted attractions

Halloween haunted scene

The first documented purpose-built haunted attraction was the Orton and Spooner Ghost House, which opened in Liphook, England, in 1915. In the 1930s, the Halloween theme, haunted houses, appeared in America around the same period as Trick-or-Treat. As an American cultural icon, the haunted house can be attributed to the opening of the haunted house in Disneyland in 1969. The Sycamore-Deer Park Jaycees organised the first Halloween haunted house organised by a Nonprofit organisation in Clifton, Ohio in 1970.

Halloween movies

Classic Halloween films include the Halloween series based on the 1978 original film written by John Carpenter. A direct sequel to the original “Halloween” was released in 2018 starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Nick Castle. On December 31st 2021, the sequel – The Halloween Kills – the twelfth movie under the franchise overall – was released. More family-friendly Halloween movies like Beetlejuice” and “This is the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” are international box office hits. 

All Saints Day

In 1000 A.D., the church made this November 2 All Souls’ Day honouring the dead. Traditionally, it is believed that the church was trying to replace the Celtic Festival to the dead with a similar Church-sponsored holiday. All Saints Day celebration was also called All-Hallows or All-Hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse), but the night before the observance was the traditional Samhain night in the Celtic. In the 9th century, the influence of Christianity spread onto Celtic territory, the influences gradually mixing with and supplanting older Celtic traditions.

Ancient origins of Halloween

The origins of Halloween date back to an ancient Celtic festival called Samhain. According to Celts, the boundary between the living and the dead was the night before the new year. The existence of ghosts of the dead made it easier for the Druids to make forecasts about the future. To commemorate the event, druids constructed huge sacred bonfires that gathered people to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. During the occasion, the Celts wore costumes of animal heads and skins and hoped they could be telling one another’s fortunes.


Some people come in costume to our houses and ask for some kind of treats like candy or even money and say: Trick or Treat or both? This word means a “thief” for a home or property owner involving no treat. The practice is said to be rooted in medieval mumming practices closely related to souling. In Scotland and Ireland, costumes worn by young children going door to door seeking food or cash is a traditional Halloween event. In the Philippines, the practise of souling is called Pangangaluwa and is primarily practised among children and adults in rural areas.

Matchmaking and less known rituals for Halloween

In 18th-century Ireland, a matchmaker could bury the ring in mashed potatoes on Halloween. Fortunetellers insisted upon finding each man a wife with whose nomenclature he wanted them to start out with and then throw it in the fireplace. Another story said that if a young woman drank a fruity dessert made out of nuts like walnut, hazelnuts and nutmeg, she dreamed about her future husband. Of course, whether or not we request romantic advice and try to avoid seven years of bad luck – all depends on the very same “spiritual” presence of the early Celts.

Why do we celebrate Halloween on October 31?

The ancient Gaelic season of Samhain is thought of as the oldest known root of Halloween. They also believed that at this time the boundary between this world and the future had already become particularly thin, giving them easier access to the dead. Other cultures also share this belief; a similar idea is mentioned around the Jewish celebration of Yom Kippur, which is traditionally observed in October and involves praying for the dead. This is also where Halloween takes its own “haunted” meaning. 

History of Halloween costumes and trick-or-treating

Kids would go door to door searching for the sweet taste of “soul cake,” similar to biscuits. Soul Cakes originated at the holidays of all souls on November 2. The candy-grabbing concept also began becoming a national trend in the late to mid-1900s. When it came to the costumes, they also evolved, as did the suggestion of dressing again in scary garb to fool unsuspecting neighbours.


Halloween dates out around 1745 and is of Christian origins with Christian roots. The word came from a Scottish name for the celebration of All Hallows’ Eve (the evening before All Hallows’ Day), meaning “Feast of Saints'” In the English translation”, All. The word eve in Scots is even, which was incorporated into either e’n and een. Over time, all of the hallows evolved into Hallows.