According to the History Channel Halloween's origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). This all dates back about 2,000 years in the area now known as Ireland, United Kingdom and northern France.On November 1st the "Celts" would celebrated the mark of the new year. This also marked the end of summer and harvest and the beginning of winter. A time often associated with death.
On the night before, October 31, they celebrated Samhain. It was believed that the ghosts of the dead would return to earth causing trouble of damaging crops. They also felt this time of ghostly presence made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future.
To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities.
During the celebration, they wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other's fortunes. When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter. Click here to read more details.
As European immigrants came to America, they brought their varied Halloween customs with them. However, these customs were primary celebrated in Maryland and the southern colonies. As more immigrants flooded the country they helped to popularize the celebration nationally. The first celebrations included "play parties," public events held to celebrate the harvest, where neighbors would share stories of the dead, tell each other's fortunes, dance, and sing. Colonial Halloween festivities also featured the telling of ghost stories and mischief-making of all kinds. More detail can be found here.
The American tradition of "trick-or-treating" probably dates back to the early All Souls' Day parades in England. During the festivities, poor citizens would beg for food and families would give them pastries called "soul cakes" in return for their promise to pray for the family's dead relatives.
Still curious has to how it all came about? Click here to read about the History of the Jack-o-lantern.
Have a safe Halloween and don't eat too much candy.