Monaghan Town Library Blog

There are many traditions at Halloween, but where did they come from?

Where did Halloween come from?

Is believed to have come from the Celtic festival of Samhain, a pagan festival that celebrates the harvest, marks the end of Summer and the coming of winter. It was believed at this time the divide between this life and the other world is at its thinnest allowing spirits or ghosts to pass through. During the festival of Samhain bonfires were lit, vegetable lanterns were carved, and people wore costumes and masks.

Halloween costumes

With the divide between this life and the afterlife people believed they would encounter spirits or ghosts and would dress up to fool the ghosts and be left alone.

Trick or treating

There are a few ways that trick of treating may have come about. People believed that as ghosts and spirits roamed on Halloween they could be appeased with food and drink. There was also the act of ‘souling’ where poor people dressed up and begged for food or money promising to pray for the souls of anyone who had died.

Carved pumpkins / Jack o ’lanterns

Along with scaring off wandering spirits. The carved pumpkin also known as the jack o’ lantern comes from an Irish folktale. The story goes that Jack was a man who tricked the devil and when he died, he was barred from both heaven and hell. The devil gave him a lantern made from a turnip and an ember of coal to wander forever. In Ireland turnips were carved as they were more available however when Irish people immigrated to America, they used pumpkins.

Bobbing for Apples

Bobbing for apples came about for romantic reasons, women would bob their head in the water to retrieve apples representing a special someone. By biting the apple or not they would know if they were meant for each other.

The colour orange

The colour orange is linked to Halloween it is believed as it is the colour of falling leaves, Autumn and the colour of fire.