Christian Halloween adopted traditions from
a much older Celtic holiday. More than 2000
years ago, the Druids observed a festival
called Samhain, during which the god of the
dead, they believed, came back to earth accompanied
by ghosts and goblins. Sound familiar? The
Celtic people wore animal skins and animal
heads to hide from these evil spirits, and
Druid priests burned sacrifices to appease
popular Halloween colors recall the orange
bonfires against the black nighttime skies.
Costuming expanded from animals and spooky
creatures to saints and, as we see today,
to personalities in the popular culture.
addition to the Druid influence, Roman harvest
festivals of the first century A.D., especially
one honoring Pomona, the goddess of fruit,
also put their stamp on the celebration.
for apples is recorded in medieval manuscripts.
Today's popular Halloween imagery of pumpkins
and cornfield mazes reflects the Roman tradition
of celebrating a good harvest.
most common tradition in today's Halloween,
trick-or-treating, is a reenactment of Irish
beggars going to the homes of the rich on
All Hallows Eve to ask for food or money.
If the rich refused, evil spirits -- so the
beggars said -- would destroy their homes.
became widespread in America in the 1940s,
according to Lucille Recht Penner in Celebration
(Simon & Schuster, 1993). Costumed children
went house-to-house asking for small handouts,
usually candy. In return, no tricks would