The History Of Halloween

The History Of Halloween

Posted in The World of Smiffys Fancy Dress by Smiffys Liverpool on September 04th 2018
Nowadays the 31st of October is celebrated with trick o’ treating, fancy dress parties, and Halloween masks, but have you ever wondered how it all got started? What are the origins of Halloween?

Halloween – Where It All Began

Many Halloween traditions originate from various different religious ceremonies throughout history. Some of these religions include Christianity and various different forms of paganism including Irish Celts, ancient Romans, and Meso-American pagans such as The Aztecs.


A religion other than one of the main religions, specifically a non-Christian or pre-Christian faith is referred to as a pagan religion. This includes faiths and beliefs such as the Ancient Greek religion, Roman religion, Norse mythology, and various other religions throughout the world.

  • The Irish Celts
    In ancient Ireland a festival known as Samhain (pronounced Sow-in) was celebrated on the 31st of October. According to Irish mythology, this was a time of year in which the doorways to the otherworld opened and as such the souls and spirits of those who died could return and walk amongst the living once more.

    However, whilst family ancestors were welcomed home and invited, the Celts also believed that harmful spirits would also wander. In order to disguise themselves and avoid harm from the dangerous spirits, the Celts would wear masks and costumes – which as the centuries past may have inspired our tradition of wearing Halloween masks.
  • The Romans
    Another group of Europeans that have historical traditions in the origins of Halloween are the ancient Romans. Specifically the modern day tradition of apple bobbing.

    During early November, the Roman pagans celebrated a festival called Pomona, which honoured the Goddess Pomona. The festival thanked the Goddess for a bountiful harvest and apples were given as offerings to Pomona, which is where the apple bobbing tradition originated. However, for ancient Romans, it was more than just a fun party game to play. Unmarried people would attempt to bite into an apple floating in water and the first person able to successfully bite into an apple was believed to be the next person to get married.
  • Meso-American Pagan Religions
    European pagans are not the only pagans who had a level of influence on Halloween celebrations. Over the Atlantic Ocean in the Americas, the Meso-American cultures have their own festivals which have impacted our modern day Halloween celebrations.

    Around 3000 years ago the Meso-American festival of Día De Los Muertos (the day of the dead) is still celebrated in countries such as Mexico with joyful skeletons walking around as a representation of those who have passed away returning to life and doing things that they enjoyed.
  • Christianity
    Halloween’s name comes from a Christian ceremony. The 1st of November was known as All Saints Day or All Hallows Day, thus making the 31st of October, All Hallows Eve, which through the passage of time became known as Halloween.

    Around the year 600 in the time of Pope Gregory I, the Pope realised that as Christianity was a young religion, they had to take their time when converting pagans to Christendom. For example, if a missionary discovered a group of pagans worshipping the Earth at a tree, instead of destroying the tree and sharing the word of God, the missionary should consecrate the tree and instruct the villagers to continue to meet there as they have been.

    Halloween is not alone in its pagan/Christian heritage. Pagan roots can be discovered in various Christian events throughout the year. For example, Christmas traditions can be found in the Norse Yule (also known as Jul) and the Roman pagan celebrations of Saturnalia.

How Did This All Become Halloween?

Through times traditions change and mix together, this was seen through the pagan celebrations mixing with Christianity. Then during the Spanish colonisation of the Americas the Meso-American traditions mixed with the Catholic traditions – Día de los muertoes and Día de los angelitos mixing with all saints day and all souls day.  

After mixing over generations with Christian traditions, the Irish Samhain traditions travelled to the United States with Irish immigrants who travelled in large numbers to the USA during 1820 to 1860 as a result of the Great Irish Famine.

What About Trick O’ Treating?

This practice started in England during the middle-ages and was known as souling. In this tradition soulers (who were usually young children) would dress in costumes as saints, angels, or spirits and ask for food or money in exchange for songs or prayers. However, sometimes poor adults would also take part in souling.

The practice of trick o’ treating as we know it today actually had a slight hiatus during the ‘20s and ‘30s as a result of sugar rationing however after sugar rationing was abolished, the tradition of trick o’ treating returned.

Find Your Ideal Halloween Fancy Dress Costume At Smiffys-Liverpool

If you’re searching for a Halloween costume or mask for a party this year, visit Smiffys-Liverpool. We have a vast selection to choose from including skeletons in our day of the dead section, witches, monsters, and more!

Additionally, our team of party experts are on hand to help and provide suggestions for your Halloween fancy dress. We have been trading for over ten years and we have an unrivalled 30 years of industry experience, so if you have any questions, you can trust our team’s professional advice.

Can’t Find The Costume You’re Looking For? Our Team Can Help

If you cannot find the fancy dress costume that you’re looking for, get in touch with our team; thanks to our experience and contacts within the industry, there’s a good chance we can source the costume for you.

So if you would like to get in touch with a member of our team, you can do so using one of the methods below.

  • You can contact us by telephone by calling, 0151 709 9449.
  • You could send your questions to us by email,
    please send your email to
  • You could fill out our enquiry form and we will reply as soon as possible.
  • You could visit us in store, our address is,
    56 Bold Street, L1 4EA,
    our opening times are 9.30 - 5.30 Monday to Saturday and 11.00 - 4.30 on Sundays.

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