The History of Halloween

Halloween is a big deal in the United States but most people do not realise that Halloween has strong links to Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. It can be traced back to the Celtic festival Samhain (summers end) representing the end of the year for crops. During this time they that ghosts and the dead walk among the living. The Druids built and lit large bonfires and burned crops and animals as sacrifice to the Celtic deities in hope they will scare away the evil spirits from the towns. Traditionally the Celts wore costumes of animal heads and skins and tried to predict each others futures. Scots are known as a superstitious group of people and are known for creating many of the superstitions that are common in society today for example the phrase ‘black sheep of the family’ comes from the Scottish farmers fearing the birth of a black faced lamb as it would cause the rest of the flock bad luck. Also placing silver in a newborns hand means they will have wealth later on in life. It is not surprising that the Scots are so superstitious and thought of as the birth place of Halloween with all the atmospheric landscapes and hunted castles with so many morbid histories. Even the famous Robert Burns wrote a poem titled Halloween in 1985 detailing the common customs and legends. The most common customs are guising where kids dress up believing that they will pass through the crowds of spirits without being noticed. Trick or treating originated from this however in Scotland the child must preform a trick for a treat – reading a poem, singing a song or telling a joke. Other customs are dookin for apples where a basin of water is filled with apples and each person takes turns trying to get an apple out with their mouths. A similar messy game played at many Halloween parties is the treacle scones game where treats are placed on a line similar to a washing line and the participants try and retrieve the treat with their mouth and their hands tied behind their backs. Pumpkin carving was also popular in Scotland however before using pumpkins they used ‘neeps’ or turnips carving a monstrous faces in to the vegetable and placing a light inside would stop the evil spirits from entering the residence. When Halloween became popular in the United States pumpkins were used as the lanterns. Halloween came to America with the colonists, many were from the UK who though with a change of religion through the years still celebrated the Celtic event this led to America creating their own traditions and customs for Halloween with aspects from all the different cultures, leading to the extravagant decorations and costumes we see today.