(Painting by Daniel Maclise in 1833, entitled “Snap Apple Night”; inspired by a Halloween party attended in 1832. Public Domain, via Wikimedia.)

Wherever you are, or how old you are, all of us love the sweet taste of Halloween candy. In fact, a quarter of the amount of candy sold here in the US is bought for Halloween. That proves that we all enjoy our holiday full of trick-or-treating, carving pumpkins, eating fall treats, and most importantly wearing amazing costumes! We got these from European traditions. I bet if you didn’t know that, you’re not going to know why we even celebrate Halloween.

Celtic Halloween tradition (Photo Credits to ImageKind)

It all started about 2,000 years ago, in what is now known as the area around Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France. The Celts began it with their festival of Samhain. The day this festival is celebrated is on their new year, November 1, because it marks the end of the harvest. Also, it started to get cold and dark, a time they linked with death. They believed that the two worlds, living and dead of course, crossed over. Ghosts of the dead came back to earth. From this, they lit sacred bonfires to ward off ghosts and burn crops as sacrifice for the Celtic deities to protect them from the winter. They wore costumes to try and read each other’s fortunes. For the ghosts themselves, people left treats and candles for their dead loved ones. They wanted to help them find the spirit world.

America wasn’t part of Halloween until people with Celtic traditions came to us. But then, it was mainly in Maryland and the southern colonies. When they arrived, we created our own traditions such as young women doing tricks with yarn, apples, or mirrors to predict their future husband. It was also said that witches, during the Salem witch trials, avoided detection by becoming black cats. We try to avoid them nowadays because we think they will bring us bad luck. So this year when you get your amazing costume on, tell scary ghost stories, or go trick or treating, just remember we wouldn’t be doing it right now if the Celts weren’t scared of the dark!

Contributing Author Keira Preusser (Photo Credits to Taylor Bickerstaff)