One of my favorite times of the year is coming, and with it comes scary stories and sweet treats, both concocted to spice up this special day. Memories of my child’s younger years would conjure up the excitement of dressing up as a monster and the anticipation of getting fistfuls of candy.
Although Halloween started as a Western tradition, its practice has spread as part of the global influence of Western culture. Let’s take a look at how this well-loved holiday started.
Halloween I: The Origin Story
It began with Samhain, a festival celebrated by the Celts. This ancient tradition recognized November 1 as the first day of the year, the end of summer and the beginning of the winter season. During this period of transition, it was believed that the veil between the realms was thinner, allowing departed souls and supernatural beings to cross over and interact with the living. Hence, the people would wear masks and special clothing (called guising) for protection against those otherworldly darker forces who might mean them harm. It was believed that witches, demons, hobgoblins, and other fey folk came out during this time. Sacred fires lit by the druids were fueled by the bones of livestock sacrificed to the gods (bone fires). The community would gather round to honor their gods, feast, and thereafter light the hearth fires of their own homes for protection throughout the year. This was also a dedicated opportunity for divination, particularly in matters of health, marriage, and death.
During the 1st CE, the Romans invaded and conquered ancient Britain, and brought with them their own festivals such as Feralia which honored the departed spirits of their loved ones, and Lemuria which was observed to placate the angry and restless dead.
Christianity first exerted its influence during the 7th CE, when Pope Boniface IV established All Martyrs’ Day on May 13. This was then changed by Pope Gregory III to include all those saints without their own feast days (the hallows), and moved the commemoration to November 1, All Saints’ Day, perhaps to take the place of the original pagan festival. Thus, October 31 became All Hallows’ Eve (Hallowe’en). What was previously a tradition to celebrate the natural cycle of life became a night of fasting and prayer as a vigil to honor the saints.
The old ways of the ancients have been Christianized, and the details of some rituals have been lost. By the 16th century however, the practice of “souling” had been well established, with the community’s poor going door to door, asking for “soul cakes” in exchange for prayers for the souls of the dead in Purgatory. The Protestant Reformation in Britain forced a shift in this tradition with the prayers focusing on the souls of the members of the household instead.
In 1605, Guy Fawkes Day was established, lending another aspect to Halloween. Aside from the familiar bonfires and feasting, effigies of unpopular figures were hanged. Often wearing masks, children and the poor would go around knocking on doors begging for food or money in exchange for not vandalizing the home.
Halloween II: An American Tale
Upon coming to North America, the Protestant British brought their strict beliefs with them, with only Guy Fawkes Day being observed in this new world. However, communities eventually began to adapt and incorporate American-Indian elements of celebration of seasonal harvests into their own traditions, allowing people to once again come together to feast, dance and sing, tell fortunes, and share stories of the dead. The 19th century saw these public autumn festivals becoming more and more of a widespread custom.
Towards the end of the 1800s, the Irish migrated to America, bringing with them their own Catholic traditions in addition to folk beliefs such as souling and the bringing of lanterns in the form of carved-out pumpkins as protection from the spirits when going house to house.
Although Guy Fawkes Day was eventually forgotten, the threat of vandalism associated with it remained. The 1920s was initially plagued by the practice of wreaking havoc on neighbors' properties on the night of October 31. In time, it evolved into the more benign, well-known tradition of trick-or-treat, where the homeowner was left in peace in exchange for sweets.
So evolved the Halloween we now know and love. Today, it is celebrated as a secular holiday focused on the community celebrating with its children. It has also contributed to the growth of businesses (CANDY!) and the entertainment industry.
Halloween III: Mystery Box Party!!!
Here at EndlessPens, we only have delectable sweets in store for you. Let us make merry with Halloween gift sets filled with just treats and no tricks. These Ghoul Mystery Boxes each celebrate a different monster, and it’s up to you to be brave enough to take one (or more) home with you.
Since we’re feeling playful and nice here are some clues we hope will help you choose your special treat:
EndlessPens Mystery Box - BOOGEYMAN
I'm the one that goes bump in the night. I just love sneaking into naughty kids’ rooms to scare them to bits. You better behave, study well, and learn to organize… or else. I’m also known as Butzemann in Germany and Namahage in Japan. Pick my mystery box if you still have that childlike spark; it’s chock full of color and tidbits to bring out the good kid in you.
EndlessPens Mystery Box - GOBLIN
I just love Halloween, and get my kicks out of tricks. If something is missing, it’s probably my doing. It’s my incorrigible cunning that gets humans into trouble. The Germans call me Kobold. If you’d like to cover all your bases with a hoarder such as myself, my mystery box will do the trick. Even if I steal one of yours for my own, you’re sure to have a spare.
EndlessPens Mystery Box - POLTERGEIST
You don’t see me, but you know I’m there for the havoc that I’ve wrought. I can get into anything, and I mean everything. I usually like to mess with teenagers and their things. My name may have come from Germany, but me and my kind can be found everywhere: from Britain, to Switzerland, and to the United States. You better pick my box if you know what’s best for you, just in case I decide to break a few of your everyday favorites.
EndlessPens Mystery Box - VAMPIRE
Yes, that’s me, the most gorgeous creature amongst the lot. And you know I only come alive for the most sublime of pleasures. My long-lived nature has made me most discerning, and my tastes have become so selective it hurts. If you’re as exacting as myself, there is no better choice than this luxurious mystery box. You’re sure to get a bite out of the good life.
EndlessPens Mystery Box - WEREWOLF
I am the beast that cannot be tamed. I revel in the outside world. My skin both frees and contains me. The only protection and release from my curse is the metal that mirrors the Moon. I may be known as Aswang in the Philippines, or may take the form of a cat in Taiwan, but the wer-wulf of Germany is closest to my heart. Take my box if you love the natural world like I do, along with the silvery shine that determines my fate. Let your desire for the warmth of the skin and the coldness of metal drive you.
EndlessPens Mystery Box - WITCH
I am human with a touch of magic. To be persecuted so is truly tragic. I merely seek to know and help things grow. With my powers I strive to help people thrive. Hence, I mix potions to create vibrant solutions. Take this box of mine to let your creativity shine. Trust in me, and let your colorful imagination free.
Use the code
LEKZ10 to get a 10% discount!
* Not applicable for HopDrop, Clearance, On Sale items, and select brands.
Written by Lekz Umali
Check out her art on Instagram!