The history of Halloween

TULSA - We think of Halloween as a time of ghosts and goblins, but where did the tradition really start?

According to, Halloween traditions began 2,000 years ago with the Celts.

They believed that on the night before their new year, November 1, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred.

On the night of October 31 the Celts celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. To commemorate the event, Druids built huge bonfires where people gathered to burn crops and offer sacrifices to Celtic deities.

During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes made mostly from animal heads and skins.

Halloween began to lose its religious connotation in the 1800s, becoming a more secular community-based children's holiday.

The holiday made its way to America with European immigrants. With rigid protestant beliefs in New England, Halloween celebrations were very limited.

The first distinctive American celebrations included "play parties," public events held to celebrate the harvest, where neighbors would share stories of the dead, and sing and dance.

Halloween lost most of its superstitious and religious connotations by the beginning of the twentieth century.

By the 1920s and 1930s, Halloween had become a community-centered holiday with parades and town-wide parties. During this time vandalism began to be a problem in many communities.

Between 1920 and 1950, the practice of trick-or-treating was revived. Families could theoretically prevent tricks being played on them by providing the neighborhood children with small treats.

The American Halloween tradition continues to grow. Today, Americans spend an estimated $6.9 billion annually on Halloween, making it the country's second largest commercial holiday, according to


For more on the Halloween season, go to our Halloween Headquarters.

Print this article Back to Top