Why do we celebrate with pumpkins, ghouls and other scary stuff on Halloween?

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Why do we celebrate with scary stuff on Halloween?

Is it your first time to celebrate Halloween in Canada?

It is a fun and colourful celebration. There will be decorations of pumpkins, ghost cut-outs and rubber spiders. Kids and some adults will wear costumes on October 31st. Kids will go trick-or-treating in the evening.

Halloween History, National Geographic

Here are the stories of how Halloween symbols came to be:

Carved pumpkins (Jack-o’-Lanterns)

Jack-o’-Lanterns are pumpkins with carved faces or designs. They are hollow and lighted from within. In the olden days, people used turnips and potatoes with a lighted candle. These lanterns came from an Irish folktale about Stingy Jack.

In the story, Jack tricked the Devil and trapped him. The Devil promised not to take Jack’s soul so that Jack would set him free. Jack agreed. But when Jack died, heaven did not accept him. He could not go to hell. So Jack wandered all over the earth. He carried a candle inside a hollowed out turnip to light his way. Families would place turnip lanterns outside so that Jack will not knock on their door. Immigrants brought this practice to North America. They used pumpkins because they were abundant in this season. This became a Halloween tradition.


Did you watch the video above (Halloween History)? Then you know that Halloween came from the Celtic festival called Samhain. They believed that spirits of the dead came back on the eve of Samhain. Families placed food and wine on their doorsteps for the spirits. People wore masks and costumes when they went out. They did this to look like ghosts so that the spirits would not bother them. This is why people dress up as scary characters during Halloween. Today, people wear other characters besides ghosts.

Later, Samhain was Christianized and became Hallowmas. Hallowmas is composed of All Hallow’s Eve (or Halloween, Oct. 31), All Saints’ Day (or All Hallows, Nov. 1) and All Souls’ Day (Nov. 2).


Witches met twice a year when seasons changed in legends. Witches gathered on May Day Festival or Beltane (May 1) and on All Hallow’s Eve (Oct. 31). It is said that witches’ powers were at their greatest during Halloween. They used their magic on people and changed into different creatures on that night.

Ghosts and ghouls

Ghosts and ghouls are symbols because it was believed that spirits roamed the earth on Halloween. Ghosts were allowed to escape freely only on this night.


Trick-or-Treating is when kids knock on each door asking for candy. It came from the Celtic practice of souling and guising. Children (and poor adults) in costume go souling on All Hallow’s Eve. They would go to homes begging for food or money. Afterwards, they would pray for the souls of their dead relatives. Souling became guising. They still begged for food and money, but performed jokes, songs or other entertainment as payment.

Irish and Scottish immigrants brought this tradition to North America in the 1920s and 30s. It became “trick-or-treating.” But instead of entertainment, trick-or-treaters performed pranks. They would take off wagon wheels or put soap on windows. Homeowners began giving candy to stop the pranks. This is why people give candy to trick-or-treaters today.

Have a fun and safe Halloween!

Sources: History of Halloween, History.com; 12 Scary Halloween symbols and their origins, Lea Rose Emery, Ranker; History of the Jack-o’-Lantern, History.com; Halloween symbols: The Witch, Things that go Boooo; and Why do we go trick-or-treating on Halloween? Matt Soniak, Mental Floss; All accessed October 24, 2017.

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