Today’s Halloween festivities maybe filled with modern delights like Candy Corn and Martha Stewart-inspired party décor, but its origins are deeply rooted in ancient Pagan practices. See how one of the world’s oldest celebrations evolved over the last 3,000 years in our Timeline of Terror.
1000 B.C. – 100 B.C.
The Celts were the first to celebrate a Halloweenish-type of party known as the festival of the dead. This pre-Christian holiday was called Samhain, pronounced Sah-ween. Sound familiar? Samhain was a time when ghosts walked among the living. Muhahaha!
43 A.D. - 600 A.D.
Christian missionaries were not fans of Samhain and attempted to eradicate the pagan holiday. When that didn’t work, they tried to revamp it and make it more Christian-like.
800 A.D. – 1000 A.D.
Still unable to shake the Pagan celebration, Pope Gregory III rules that All Saints’ Day, also known as All Hallows’ Day (Nov. 1st) be honored with Samhain. In celebration, villagers are told to dress up as saints and young men are encouraged to go door-to-door begging for food for the poor. It’s starting to sound a little more like the Halloween we know, right?
1500s – early 1800s
Fast forward a few hundred years and the night before All Hallows’ Day is now called All Hallows’ Evening, Hallowe’en for short. Protestants make another attempt to get rid of the pagan practice, but the Celts continue the celebrations with bonfires and children are allowed to beg for money. In America, the Puritans ban Halloween, Christmas and Easter because they consider them to be Catholic. Only Catholics and Episcopalians take part in Halloween activities.
Millions of Irish immigrants bring their Halloween traditions to America. They dress up in costumes and visit neighborhood homes asking for food or money, very similar to today’s trick-or-treating.
Candy Corn hits the market. It’s not yet the quintessential Halloween sweet, but it’s a big hit with farmers because of its “corn” shape.
Anoka, Minnesota is the first American city to officially sanction a citywide Halloween celebration. New York follows in 1923 and L.A. in 1925. By this time, kids are trick-or-treating and throwing Halloween parties.
1966 & 1978
“It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” makes its TV debut in 1966. And the horror flick “Halloween” hits theaters. Are there any two better Halloween classics?
Halloween is celebrated by millions around the world and by people of all ages. It’s also a huge money-maker. Costumes, candy, party supplies – the year’s most spooktacular day is big business.
The modern Halloween celebrates imagination and creativity – but maintains the eerie-edge of its Pagan origin, Samhein.