The original Halloween festival was the Celtic festival of Samhain where tribesmen lit fires and wore strange costumes to ward off evil spirits. Like many pagan festivals Samhain was incorporated by Christianity into the festivities leading up to All-Saints Day by Pope Gregory III.
Not big in America
Despite the legendary popularity of Halloween in America, during colonial America Halloween was suppressed by the rigid protestant belief system. It was only popular in the southern colonies, which had large catholic communities.
Trick or Treat
The tradition of knocking on peoples doors and trick or treating stems from the practice of poor citizens begging for food and families giving them pastries during the All Soul’s day parade in 17th century England. This became known as ‘going a-souling’ and was incorporated into Halloween festivities.
During the cold and dangerous winters of the middle ages, people would dress up in clothes they wouldn’t normally wear in order to trick evil spirits into thinking they were someone else. This tradition has been incorporated into Halloween.
Apart from the religious celebrations of All-Saints day, the tradition of Halloween festivities stem from the ‘play parties’ of 19th century America. During the weeks leading up to Halloween communities came together to celebrate the harvest and swap stories of the dead.