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Witches, ghosts, ghouls, skeletons, and candy! That is what we think of when we hear Halloween but have you ever wondered where the holiday came from? This page will offer you an inside look into the history of Halloween and some spooky reads to go with it.
If our library does not have the book you're looking for we can always get it for you from another library. Be sure to checkout of thrilling horror reads and audio on OverDrive too.
History of Halloween
Samhain (pronounced sow-in)
"This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth..." - History Channel, Halloween 2021
All Saints' Day/All Hallows' Day
"By the 9th century, the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands, where it gradually blended with and supplanted older Celtic rites. In 1000 A.D., the church made November 2 All Saints’ Day, a day to honor the dead. It’s widely believed today that the church was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related, church-sanctioned holiday..." - History Channel, Halloween 2021
"Borrowing from European traditions, Americans began to dress up in costumes and go house to house asking for food or money, a practice that eventually became today’s “trick-or-treat” tradition. Young women believed that on Halloween they could divine the name or appearance of their future husband by doing tricks with yarn, apple parings or mirrors..." - History Channel, Halloween 2021
All Souls' Day and Soul Cakes
"The American Halloween 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..." - History Channel, Halloween 2021
Black Cats and Ghosts
Today we portray ghosts as fearsome and malevolent but during the Celtic end-of-summer festivals ghosts were considered friendly spirits. People would set a place for them at the dinner table and leave treats on their doorsteps so they can join in the festivities. At the end of the night candles were lit on the roadside to help the spirits find their way back to the spirit world.
In the Middle Ages people believed that witches could turn themselves into black cats to avoid being noticed by the public. Today we avoid crossing paths with black cats out of fear of bad luck because of this reason.
Read about Samhain, Day of the Dead, haunted houses, jack o'lanterns, costumes and more with numerous articles on popular Halloween topics. This page also covers Halloween around the world and throughout history.