The Spooky History of Halloween (& How to Celebrate It)

Halloween! It’s here, it’s here, it’s practically here! Us spooksters love this time of year: hot cider, pumpkin spice, sweater weather, trick or treaters, corn mazes — all things eerie and spine-tingling come to mind! 

But how did it all begin? Sit tight, because we’re about to unleash the history of Halloween and all its spookiness. Oh, and, don’t forget to draw the curtains and douse the lights.

“AMUCK, AMUCK, AMUCK!” — Hocus Pocus

What Is the Meaning of Halloween?

The fun thing about Halloween is it can kind of be turned into whatever you like best about it. Some only celebrate Halloween when their kids are young enough to trick or treat, and then never really get into it again.

We find that… sad.

You’re never really too old to play dress up and eat candy.

Others keep Halloween going no matter their age with more grown up festivities! Some opt for a horror movie marathon, a visit to a terrifying haunted house, or a little history lesson on their favorite holiday: All Hallow’s Eve.

Speaking of which, let’s talk about how it all started.

The History of Halloween

Our first foray into the history of Halloween introduces us to the Celts. The ancient Celts of Europe had a festival called Samhain, where everyone donned costumes and danced around the bonfires to ward off ghosts.

Evidently, ghosts get confused by a little dress up. At least that was the belief. 

The Celts also believed that the day before their new year (which was November 1), the lines between the living and the dead became blurred, and it was easier for spirits to traverse between realms.

Do you have the heebie-jeebies yet?

Around the same general time frame, Pope Gregory IV designated a day to honor all of the saints: November 1st. This became known as All Saint’s Day or All Hallow’s Day.

Of course, with the strong emphasis in the middle ages on superstition, it seems that many believed that the night before the “good” saints were celebrated, the “bad” ghouls were afoot.

So “All Hallow’s Eve” came to symbolize the night of evil spirits (or lost souls) before the dawn of the feast day for the saints.

In other words, Hallow Eve (hear it?) was all about the creepy, ghostly nighttime things.

Eventually, with the spread of Christianity, the church wanted to merge or replace Samhain with All Soul’s Day, which was November 2nd. So the next thing you know, bonfires and dressing up became the thing to do, and the celebration took the permanent title of All Hallow’s Eve. Voila! Halloween.

What Day Is Halloween?

October 31st.

Why Do We Celebrate Halloween?

Nowadays, most families celebrate Halloween with a lot of more modern traditions that have evolved (thankfully) quite a bit from ancient practices. 

Consider things like bobbing for apples, for example. It could have come from the Roman Empire after they had conquered the Celts. They had a festival during the autumn to worship and give thanks to Pomona, the goddess of fruits and trees. The symbol for Pomona was an apple!

Queue dramatic music: Dum dum duuuuuuuuummm.

(Or, alternatively, maybe everyone just likes to have fun when it’s apple harvest time and bobbing for apples has nothing to do with ancient Roman influence.)

Some traditions came from the Colonials who were influenced both by Native Americans and the Irish immigrants. Things like telling ghost stories or spirit tales, dancing and generally making mischief were all ways of celebrating the arrival of autumn. 

These days Halloween is mostly a kiddo’s holiday, but for those of us with little goth hearts and a habit of wearing black all year ‘round, Halloween is a much loved, fall-themed reason to celebrate.

And how, pray tell, do we celebrate this spooky holiday?

How to Celebrate Halloween Like a Boss

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Dress Up in Fun & Spooky Costumes

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It doesn’t have to be just for the children! Family themed costumes are always a huge hit when out trick or treating or going to a party. And swap those stereotyped roles — 

There’s no reason Baby Sophie can’t be the wolf, and Daddy can’t be the Grandmother with Mom as Little Red Riding Hood, and Junior as the Lumberjack who saves the day! 

Take the Kids to Trick or Treat

Watching them collect their goodies is almost more fun for you. So, fill up a tumbler with something hot and put on your walking shoes. We’re not stopping until that candy bucket is full! 

Decorate Your Yard

the history of halloween - decorate your yard

It’s amazing how much spooky stuff you can get inexpensively at places like the Dollar Tree, thrift shops, or yard sales. Blow your neighbors away with your spooky, creepy, front yard cemetery, or even a short haunted walk up to your porch. 

Enjoy Pumpkin Spice Lattes, Bread, Pie… Everything!

Face it: pumpkin spice is here to take over your life. Embrace the nutmeg and cinnamon nonsense, and give in already! 

Halloween Date Night

Halloween can be the perfect date night. No kids? No curfew then! Have an epic, romantic, yet spooky date night that goes down in history, and becomes an annual occurrence for you and your ghoul. 

Give Out Candy to Trick or Treaters

It’s almost more fun than actually doing the trick or treating! Getting to see all those little goblins, fairies, knights, and superheroes just brings a huge smile to your face. 

Carve Pumpkins

It’s a tradition that’s been around since… well, since they used gourds instead of pumpkins! Even the creatively challenged can carve a pumpkin using easily downloaded templates from the internet, or just do the traditional triangle eyes and nose, with a toothy grin. 

Attend a Halloween Festival

Ask around for the best one(s) in your town, or travel a little to really get your Halloween heart pumping fast! 

Celebrating Halloween as a Christian

Halloween isn’t always for everyone of course, and Christianity hasn’t always adored everything about the holiday. Decide as a family where you stand on Halloween with this helpful article

Throw a Halloween Party

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Throw a bash for all of your favorite Morticias, Gomezes, Pugslys, and Wednesdays! Get down with your spooky selves and make it a night to remember. Here are our favorite Halloween party ideas.

Watch Scary Movies Back to Back

Stay up late with some friends and watch a whole series of thrilling, chilling flicks. The adrenaline is just getting started! 

Set Up Halloween Pranks

It’s called TRICK or Treat for a reason, right? Toilet papering your best friend’s house is a great place to start. Or try the classic jumping out of the bushes to scare the people on your street (aim for the teenagers, though)!

Decorate Halloween Cookies

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Look, we all know we’ll be seeing a dentist in November after all that candy eating anyway. Embrace the sugar and decorate some cookies together. 

Go Apple Bobbing

Legend has it, the first girl to get an apple will be the first to walk down the aisle! This is a fun, often forgotten bit of Halloween lore and tradition. 

Create Halloween Crafts

Get down with your crafty selves, you Halloween lover! Make some kooky decorations and crafts and give them out instead of candy, or decorate your home with them. 

Visit a Corn Maze

Just don’t forget to bring your compass… 

Get Scared at a Haunted House

Some are child friendly, some are definitely NOT. So do your research, and then go get the wits scared out of you! 

Make Caramel Apples

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Sticky and gooey, crunchy and delicious. It’s definitely caramel apple time

Dance to Some Halloween Music

Learn all the moves to Thriller! Or, ya know, try. We can’t all be MJ.

Decorate a Halloween Tree

Why should Christmas have all the fun? Check out this Halloween-style tree.

Attend a Costume Party

And plan ahead for the most epic costume you can create. Goodwill always has a huge selection, or if you’re crafty you can DIY it! 

Have a Costume Parade

This is so neat for the Littles! They can’t stay up too late, so start early and then trick or treat together. 

Take Photos at a Pumpkin Patch

the history of halloween - pumpkin patch photos

Is there anything more picturesque than a pumpkin patch? I mean, really? For fall enthusiasts, the answer is definitely no.

Build a Haunted Gingerbread House

Like this one. So fun to keep the little ones entertained, but they’re also a quaint double date activity for the grown ups. 

Read Aloud Spooky Stories

Don’t forget to turn off the lights and use your scariest voices! Here’s a great collection your family will love to return to every year.

Read Next: 50 Fun Halloween Party Ideas & Spooky Must-Haves

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Melyssa Williams

Melyssa Williams has been writing since she could hold a pen (or a quill, as she was an odd little duck).

Sadly, she was born to two loving parents who fed her broccoli, taught her manners, and raised her with...

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