A Brief History of Halloween

By Tim Lambert

Early Halloween

Our word Halloween is derived from the old words All Hallows Eve because it was the eve of All Hallows Day (I November). Hallow is an old word for saint and today we call 1 November All Saints Day. In the 4th century, the Church began to celebrate a feast to all the martyrs. At first, it was celebrated on the first Sunday after Pentecost (in late May or early June). The Eastern Orthodox Churches still celebrate it on that day.

However in the West in 609 or 610 Pope Boniface IV moved the feast of all martyrs to 13 May. Then in the 8th century, Pope Gregory III (731-741) made 1 November a feast to remember all saints and it became known as All Saints Day or All Hallows Day.

After the 16th Century Reformation, All Saints Day and Halloween were virtually forgotten in most of England, along with most other saints days.

However, Halloween continued to be observed in Scotland and Ireland. There was a belief that ghosts and witches were particularly active on that day.

Modern Halloween

In the 18th century in Ireland Halloween became a day for playing pranks like blocking doors with carts, removing gates, throwing vegetables at doors, and covering chimneys with turf. There were similar mischief-making days in Britain at different times of the year.

In the mid-19th century Irish and other immigrants took Halloween customs to the USA. Playing pranks such as moving farm animals, removing gates, etc. were common.

The Irish also hollowed-out turnips and put candles in them. In the USA the turnip became a pumpkin.

In the early 20th-century little attention was paid to Halloween in Britain. However, in the late 20th century the festival of Halloween was revived in Britain with parties becoming popular. The American customs of trick or treat and carving pumpkins at Halloween were imported at that time. Today Halloween is a very popular festival both in the USA and in Britain.

Some Halloween Facts n Christopher Columbus brought pumpkin seeds back from his first voyage in 1493. They soon became popular in Europe and Shakespeare mentioned them in his play The Merry Wives of Windsor. They were then called pumpions.

A woman wrote the first story about a mummy returning to life. In 1827 Jane Webb wrote a book called The Mummy! A Tale of the Twenty-Second Century. The first film about a mummy coming back to life was made in France in 1909.

In the 16th-century pieces of Egyptian mummy were used as medicine.

In 1819 Dr John Polidori wrote a short story about an aristocratic vampire. It was called The Vampyre. Dracula by Bram Stoker was published in 1897.

Last revised 2022