From this point, the Celtic celebration of Samhain was adapted, changed and embellished by the invasive and ruling forces that followed. The Romans blended Samhain with their own Feralia celebration in late October, where they traditionally commemorated the passing of the dead.
Centuries later in the 9th century, the Christian Church attempted to supplant their own Christian take on the Samhain, and created All Souls’ Day as a Church-sanctioned holiday on November 2. The day before that was All Saints’ Day, or All-Hallows (from the middle English Alholowmesse) and so the night before All-hallows was appropriately named All-Hallows Eve. In full circle, October 31 – the same day as the ancient Celtic Samhain celebration – became known as Hallowe’en. A special time of the year when many believe that the spirit world can make contact with the physical world, a night when magic is at its most potent.
During some Celtic celebrations of Samhain, villagers disguised themselves in costumes made of animal skins to drive away phantom visitors; banquet tables were prepared and food was left out to placate unwelcome spirits. In later centuries, people began dressing as ghosts, demons and other malevolent creatures, performing antics in exchange for food and drink. This custom, known as mumming, dates back to the Middle Ages and is thought to be an antecedent of trick-or-treating. Poor people would visit the houses of wealthier families and receive pastries called soul cakes in exchange for a promise to pray for the souls of the homeowners’ dead relatives. Known as "souling," The practice was later taken up by children, who would go from door to door asking for gifts such as food, money and ale. In Scotland and Ireland, young people took part in a tradition called 'guising' dressing up in costume and accepting offerings from various households. Rather than pledging to pray for the dead, they would sing a song, recite a poem, tell a joke or perform another sort of “trick” before collecting their treat, which typically consisted of fruit, nuts or coins.
From Ireland, the tale spread to Scotland and England, and people carved out turnips, beetroots and potatoes and put them in windows or near doors to scare away Jack and other evil spirits.
Turnips and beetroots don’t adorn the steps of our homes on Halloween nowadays. It was when European immigrants took the tradition to America that they started carving pumpkins instead, as they were native to the region and more readily available. We’ve taken to the pumpkin tradition here in the UK too as they’re much easier to hollow out, carve and get creative with.
Another complex history behind this one – the Celts believed that ghosts, fairies and spirits came visiting on October 31, and had to be appeased with food and drink. If people dressed up as the spirits and received offerings on their behalf, they believed that this would protect them from the souls of the dead.
Centuries later in the 15th century, Christians used to share soul-cakes (a cakey biscuit with a cross design) from October 31 to November 2. People would visit houses and take soul-cakes in return for praying for the souls of the household’s dead relatives.
The wearing of costumes, or “guising” developed around the same time. Groups would dress up and travel house to house reciting poetry, acting out small plays or singing songs in return for money, apples or soul-cakes. Some groups threatened mischief if they were not paid.
The first written use of trick or treat as we know it was in 1927 in America (many of the Halloween traditions had moved over there with British immigrants), where it described a situation in which “youthful tormentors were at [the] back door and front, demanding edible plunder by the world “trick or treat”.
From ancient times, folks believed that this was the night when haunted and spooky things happened with great frequency. The tradition lives on today. For many kids, it’s a popular holiday so have fun with your personalised message and here are a few expressions and message you could use for your fun postcard for the spookiest of days on 31st October.