All Hallows' Eve/Hallowe'en/Costume evolution

I hope this thread (if there are any responses) doesn’t go off-topic into the direction of the purported “evil” aspects of Hallowe’en. I know that’s all a bunch of hockey, and that’s not the question.

What is the evolution of Hallowe’en as we know it today. I assume it’s connected to “All Saints’ Day,” where we get “All Hallows’ Eve,” but where did we go from there to children going from door to door in costumes asking for candy?

Someone will help me out more,I know,but it’s a representation of the spirits that lurk about on Hallows eve.You gotta appease them. So kids go around dressed like “whatever” and get candy to appease them. Sortof like spirit ambassadors!

Apropos of this, we had a wize-a$$ neighbor kid who showed up at the door in suit and tie, carrying Dad’s old briefcase. When we asked about his “costume” he explained that witches and stuff were OK for scaring kids, but he wanted to scare adults, so he was going around as an I.R.S. agent! And then showed us the side of his briefcase, where he had stencilled the letters.

Halloween has its origins in the ancient Celtic new year celebration of Samhain. “All Hallows Eve” and “All Saints Day” were an example of christian adaptation of pagan festivals. The oldest known recognition of the christian adaptation of the festival goes back to the reign of Pope Gregory III in the 8th century.

Samhain was marked with the belief that contact with the dead would be possible at this time. Most likely the costume idea has origins in the ancient “like attracts like” magic principle, and thus dressing as the dead would help in contacting the dead.

Halloween was popularized in the U.S. by Irish immigrants, and evolved from mischief-making to treat requests. Obviously the “trick or treat” term is supposed to be a threat, but mischief is pretty sedated these days.

It’s getting dark and cold, the harvest is in, the leaves are off the trees, another terrible winter is about to be upon us. There is some kind of antiquated religious significance to Halloween (hallowed evening) but then the church always did try to usurp all the best holidays - The midwinter feast at the darkest coldest time of year became Christmas, the spring fertility celebrations became Easter. All good pagans believe that Halloween is the night the spirits walk the earth. The jackolanterns scare them away from your home but if some little monsters show up at your door they are up to no good. Demonic possession, soul theft, running sores on your genitals, soaped windows, overturned outhouses, who knows what evil these spirits are capable of? Bribe them with treats and they should go away.
Now for an additional speculative stretch: Throughout history humans have usually lived under brutal oppressive regimes. Traditions, of feeding strangers at your door without questions, believing in spirits and mythical creatures and leaving food outside for them, came in very handy for the outlaws and fugitives inevitably created by oppressive regimes. If the authorities came around and spotted some food left out, well, people always do that to appease the mythical spirits. Halloween is an an honourable tradition.

The Christian Church co-opted the feast of Samhain, the beginning of the Celtic New year for the feast of All Saints or All Hallows (Holy) Day. In the Celtic traditions, the evening before the first day of the year was a time for many spiritual creatures to manifest themselves on earth, including the return of the spirits of the dead to there earthly habitats.

A great many of the celebratory rites of the pagan feast, intended to either placate or ward off any evil spirits, carried on after the feast was “baptized” (hence jack-o-lanterns, noise making, and the association of scary things).

A tradition of pranks and practical jokes arose in Ireland. (Imitating the wandering spirits? Simple mayhem on a rowdy night?)

The trick-or-treat tradition appears to have begun in the murky traditions of the Irish immigrants to the U.S. (although there are several conflicting versions that link it back to various pagan rituals) with one version being that young hooligans would coerce treats from homeowners by threatening to perform their (nasty) tricks if they were not bribed with treats.


I have to learn to type faster. There were NO responses when I began my reply.

Ummm . . . huh?

By religious I guess you mean Christian here? Yes, All Saints’ Day is a Christian celebration and, while not too popular among many Christian sects, is hardly “antiquated.”

I can only hope that’s a joke.


andros, Samhain is quite antiquated and was a major religious festival.

Yes, Dude, I know. But double checking Al’s post I’m still pretty sure that’s not what he was referring to. The whole sentence:

He then proceeds to list pagan celebrations “usurped” by “the church.” Again, I can only assume he means Christianity throughout.


“Listen Children Eternal Father Eternally One!” Exceptions? None!
-Doc Bronner

So what’s the spiritual difference between Halloween and Walpurgis Night (the evening before Midsummer Night) ?

Ukulele Ike, it might be more apt to ask what do they have in common. About all that would be in common is that they both have origins in pagan festivals.

They are completely different festivals. Samhain is a Celtic festival related to the new year and to the dead. Walpurgis Night is a German fertility festival. Walpurgis Night might be compared to the Celtic holiday of Beltane.

I take that back partially. It looks like Walpurgis Night has some traditions more similar to Halloween than I realized. However, it looks like Walpurgis Night is not so centered on the dead. In Samhain, the dead were often warded. It seems that on Walpurgis Night, a demonized image of witches are warded!

The two holidays seem to have pretty different origins in any case.

I am so bad at getting things across at one time.

It seems that the darker aspects of Halloween come more directly from pagan tradition, as it was a festival of the dead. The darker aspects of Walpurgis Night seem to come from the christian demonization of the pagan spring rites. Instead of faeries coming out to usher in spring, evil stuff and witches came out that needed to be warded. In any case, Walpurgis Night is ultimately derived from the Mayday fertility festival.

I read that Jack o’lanterns are of Irish origin, too, and were originally carved turnips.

It seems way back in Celtic history, “Jack” was refused entrance into heaven. He tried for hell, but the Devil didn’t want him either. Poor Jack was doomed to roam the earth, but before he left Hell he asked Satan for a handful of coals to light the way. The coals were carried in a turnip Jack happened to have with him.

What city is it that untill recently had a tradition of a pre-Halloween Hell Night, notorious for arson?

Plus I read that in the old days when cities still had trolley cars, one favorite prank was to grease the rails at intersections so the trolley’s brakes would slip.

“Devil’s Night”

The Christian ritual of honoring the dead goes back to the first generations of Christianity as they would visit the graves of the martyrs on the anniversary of their martyrdom (just like some of us visit the graves of our dearly departed – especially on the anniversary of their death).

And, hey, Christianity wasn’t taking over a Pagan holiday, it was trying to suppress it completely and replace it with a Christian ritual of honoring the dead. But instead, we got this weird-ass hybrid of witches and ghosts. Not to mention the addition of harvest festivals (pumpkins and apples) and secular idiocy (princess and pokemon costumes). The U.S. culture is a syncretistic religion.



What dosage of what does one use to sedate mischief?

Sorry, I’m not finished. I meant to click ‘Review Topic’, not ‘Submit Reply’.

Al Zheimers:

What do bad pagans believe? And I think that pagans who would complain, to the “little monsters” who “show up at your door”, about causing “running sores on [their] genitals”, might get into trouble of another sort.


But what if I, in my idiosyncratic non-religion, choose to light firecrackers on Halloween and jack-o’-lanterns on the Fourth of July, will I be stripped of US citizenship?