Halloween’s Spooky Origin Story


Kathryn Vlaanderen, News Writer

Halloween is a holiday that is usually associated with the candy, masks and dressing up in costumes for a great time with friends. However, the origins of the spooky holiday that we all grew up with contains a more interesting tale that is unknown to the 21st century. 

The traditions of Halloween are believed to date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain and marked the end of the hot summer and harvest season and began the cold dark months of winter.  The Celtic priest would make predictions of the future and believed spirits came back to cause trouble in villages and damage crops.

 To celebrate the priest would wear animal heads and skins and build bonfires to tell ghostly stories and fortunes.  Apart from the seasonal changes, this festival was considered the time of the year that was associated with human death. The night of Halloween and Samhain has also been associated with the belief of the dead returning to earth. 

The word “Halloween” comes from the 18th Century and was switched out with Guy Fawkes Day on November 5 in England. During this time, Halloween had been associated with marriage and sexuality more than the dead.  In this time, young women used this time as one to decide on marriage through a variety of different party games that were played on Halloween night.

The Jack O Lantern is one of the most iconic symbols of Halloween traditions. The name “Jack O Lantern” comes from an old Irish myth of a man nicknamed for his bad behavior and choices.  The story features a man who was nicknamed “Stingy Jack” who made a deal with the devil one night after Jack did not want to pay for his drink.  Jack convinced the devil to come and drink with him by persuading the devil to change himself into a coin that he used to pay for his drinks.  Jack then tricked and trapped the devil by placing the devil coin into his pocket by a crucifix. 

Afterward, Jack freed the devil under the condition that if Jack died within a year, the devil wouldn’t be able to collect his soul.  The devil agreed but was tricked again when Jack asked him to retrieve a fruit from a tree.  Jack carved a crucifix into the bark of the tree which prevented the devil from climbing down.  The myth goes on to state that when Jack finally passed, God wouldn’t allow a stingy trickster like Jack into heaven. 

Now stuck between heaven and hell, Jack was instead given a burning piece of coal and a carved-out turnip and forced to wander the world ever since that night.  Out of this the modern Jack O Lantern or Jack of the Lantern was born but of course, we use pumpkins instead of old fashioned turnips.

Black Cats have also been associated with this spine-tingling holiday. Be that as it may, no one really knows exactly where the beliefs of black cats are in association with bad luck and evil.

Phillip Fox, associate professor of the History, Politics and Geography department,

“Cats have long been associated with evil, and with sex,” Fox said. “Witches and demons were sometimes reported to appear in the form of a cat (black and white, traditionally). To protect yourself from the devilry of cats, you could maim the cat, and if you were worried that someone might be working magic against you, you could kill their cat to harm them and protect yourself.” 

Trick or treating became a way to quiet the trouble that was caused by gangs and youth who were arrested for causing vandalism to neighborhoods. It was used to honor the youth by having them dress up in costumes and march from house to house to request candy instead. This act enabled candy companies to flourish from the purchases and sudden income of money 

Halloween’s origins are as spine-tingling and mysterious as the holiday itself. Its roots and origin story are what keep generations of people interested. From bobbing for apples and spotting Black Cats on the street to carving an eerie face on a Jack O Lantern; There are a lot of things to love about this holiday!