Have you ever wondered how the tradition of trick-or-treating got started? We dress up in our favorite costumes and go around our neighborhood in the hopes of getting as much candy as we can and others do the same. This tradition didn’t happen by chance. In fact, it’s origins goes has deep roots in history.
The tradition of Halloween first started when the Celtic people, who lived in western and central Europe, wore costumes reminiscent of evil spirits towards the end of the year. They believed that around that time, demons and the spirits of the dead roamed the Earth, and in order to protect themselves, they had to mirror the appearance of these entities.
Later in history, Catholic Church became highly influential in Europe, and they were able to change and create a different version of this Celtic tradition by encouraging people to dress up as “saints, angels, and a few demons”, which led to impoverished families to go door to door for food or money and in return, singing songs and make prayers for the dead. This practice was called souling.
The Halloween we know today comes from different histories and cultures, and the long line of changes it went through with different cultures influenced how each country interprets this holiday.
For instance, Mexico and Latin America countries commemorate the spirits of the dead from October 31 to November 2. Part of the commemoration is done by forming an altar in the quiet of their homes, placing food, flowers, and even candies that their loved ones enjoyed when they were on Earth. On November 1, the day they call Dia de los Muertos, the food and candy in the festivities are sometimes shaped into skulls and skeletons.
The Halloween traditions of Ireland may be more familiar because Ireland (an original home of the Celts) is where the Halloween we know today originated from, but aside from trick-or-treating, the Irish also host parties — Parents organize treasure hunts for their children(with the treasure being treats such as candies), and equally important to the celebration of this holiday in Ireland is the inclusion of the “barmbrack”, a fruitcake that’s believed to tell the future of the eater.
The celebration of Halloween is different across countries, and while all of them have their own histories, the similarities are apparent: the visitation of spirits on Earth, the time of year the holiday occurs, and the peace and community its food brings!