Halloween has it’s origins in the religion of the ancient Druids, who believed that on October 31st the veil between the world of the living and the dead was thinnest, and that dead souls might cross over into the world of the living.

It is believed that Halloween was brought to America in the 1840’s by Irish immigrants who arrived in large numbers as they fled the great potato famine in their homeland. This gave the holiday plenty of time to become well established in this country. As with everything else, the Victorians embraced Halloween with clever cards, games, and costumes created for the occasion.

We also owe the custom of carving jack-o-lanterns to the Irish. They have a folk tale about a man named Jack. He was known as a drunkard who was fond of playing tricks. He once trapped the Devil up a tree by carving a cross in the trunk, and wouldn’t let him down until the Devil made a deal never to tempt Jack again. However, upon his death, Jack was refused entrance into heaven because of his evil ways, and also refused entrance into hell because he had tricked the Devil. Destined to wander forever in the darkness, the Devil gave Jack a single coal to light his way. This coal was placed into a hollowed out turnip to keep it glowing longer – Jack’s Lantern. When the immigrants came to America, they found pumpkins more plentiful and easier to carve than turnips, and we have been hollowing out and lighting pumpkins at Halloween ever since.

Trick-or-treating is believed to have its origins with the European custom of “souling”. On November 2nd – All Souls Day – early Christians would go door-to-door asking for “soul cakes”, which were bread with currants baked into it. In return for the cakes, the recipients would promise to pray for the souls of dead relatives of the family providing the cakes.

By the late 1800’s Halloween parties became a favorite way to celebrate. Halloween had lost most of its superstitious tone, and games like bobbing for apples and scavenger hunts were popular. Always a bit enchanted by the mysterious, Victorians also indulged in fortune-telling, and games that would predict your future love were also favorites.

Visit Recollections Halloween section for ideas on your costume!