Halloween#039;s haunting history

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 30, 2004

We’ve got a

holiday coming up that is a favorite among many people – Halloween. Whether

it’s the delicious candy, the cute and scary costumes, the grinning

Email newsletter signup

jack-o’-lanterns, haunted houses or the fright flicks that take over the

airwaves, Oct. 31 is one popular celebration in America.

So where did

such a crazy tradition come from? Trace the roots of Halloween and you’ll

travel back many centuries…

Walkin’ at


By the end of

October, ancient societies had harvested their crops and were ready for the

non-growing, or &uot;dead&uot; season.

The first day in

November was called All Hallows Day, or All Hallow Tide, and it was a solemn

time dedicated to the remembrance of loved ones who had passed


It was believed

on All Hallows Day, the dead from the past year would finally discover peace.

However, on the night before, All Hallows Eve, the spirits of the dead were

said to walk the earth one last time.

Along with all the good folks, there

were bound to be some bad spirits roaming around that


To keep those

nasty spirits from entering their homes, folks would dress in disguises in

hopes of scaring the spirits away. And so was born our tradition of dressing

in costumes this time of year.


celebrated All Souls Day. They may have actually originated the custom of

&uot;trick or treating.&uot; The custom of &uot;soulling&uot; involved beggars going from

house to house, asking for treats called &uot;soul cakes.&uot; In return for the

cakes, the beggar promised to say prayers of indulgence for the deceased

relatives of the people giving the cakes.

These prayers

were considered critical to ensure the quick passage of souls to



ghosties and punkins, oh my!

That grinning

orange fellow known as the Jack-‘O-Lantern actually comes from an Irish

folktale about a crafty fellow named Jack who tricked the devil, but also

angered God in the process.

The upshot of the tale is Jack was condemned to

walk the earth, with only a candle inside a squash to light the way.


time, a pumpkin came to replace the squash.

Witches likely

came on the scene from the days of the Puritans in America, who viewed Wiccan

celebrations of the October harvest as &uot;evil&uot;. They, of course, were also

strongly anti-witch in attitude.

Halloween ghosts

come to us from the days of All Hallows Eve; spiders and bats are simply

creepy creatures that enhance the spooky spirit of the occasion, and

skeletons, representing death, take the story of Halloween full circle, back

to its origins as a celebration of life and death.