Spooky Halloween Traditions And Their Origins

Carving jack-o'-lanterns

The tradition of carving jack-o'-lanterns originated in 19th-century Ireland, but using turnips instead of pumpkins.

Wearing scary costumes

With ghosts wandering around the Earth during Samhain, the Celts got creative to avoid being terrorized by evil spirits.

Bobbing for apples

A staple at Halloween parties, bobbing for apples can be traced back to a Roman festival honoring Pomona, the goddess of agriculture and abundance.

Seeing ghosts

Celtic people believed that during the festival of Samhain, spirits walked the Earth. The festival marked the transition to the new year at the end of the harvest and beginning of winter.

Black cats

The idea of being spooked by black cats dates back to the Middle Ages, when they were considered a symbol of the devil.

Going trick-or-treating

There is much debate around the origins of trick-or-treating, but generally there are three theories.

Devouring candy

The act of going door-to-door for handouts has long been part of Halloween. But until the middle of the 20th century, the treats kids received were generally coins, fruit, and nuts.


The pre-Halloween tradition, known as Devil’s Night, is credited to a different origin, depending on the source. Some say that pranks were originally part of May Day celebrations.

Lighting candles and bonfires

For much of the early history of Halloween, towering bonfires were used to light the way for souls seeking the afterlife.

Candy apples

However, the first mention of candy and caramel apples being given out at Halloween didn't happen until the 1950s.

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