A brief history of the Tradition of Halloween

With Halloween fast approaching, the shops full of costumes, scary masks, and plenty of Halloween chocolate and treats, we’ve been doing some reading to trace the roots of Halloween and the tradition of trick & treating to see where it all began.

It’s believed it stems all the way back 2000 years ago to the Celtic people, who lived across Britain, Ireland and Northern France. The Celtics were farming people and they marked the change in the growing seasons and the beginning of the winter through the symbolism of a celebration of the pre-Christian festival called Samhain. This festival took place on October 31st and came from a belief that their dead relatives returned to the earth on this evening and it symbolised the boundary between the living and the dead. Some people in the community would dress up in costumes, wearing masks to avoid being taunted by the ghostly visitors, bonfires were lit, and tables of food left out to please the spirits and later it is believed that they dressed as ghosts, demons and other dark figures, performing different activities in exchange for food and drinks.

Scary Pumpkins / Jack O Lanterns

In the following decades, Christianity was gathering momentum in Britain, resulting in Christian festivals and celebrations gaining in numbers, including All Hallows’ Day (also known as All Saints Day) – the day of remembering those who had died for their Christian beliefs. Although initially celebrated in May, it is said, that Pope Gregory moved the feast of All Hallows’ to November 1st, in an attempt to replace the pagan celebration of the Celtic Samhain festival with a church ordained celebration.

This evening of Samhain became known as All Hallows’ Eve, and then later Hallow Eve, until where we find ourselves now, with Halloween – an evening where the dead make contact with the living, and magic is afoot.

Little Trick or Treaters

The first form of trick and treating is believed to have been poor children in Medieval Europe going from house to house asking for money and food on the evening of Halloween, offering to pray for the souls of those who had died. These children would be given a pastry called a Soul cake in return – this was known as “souling”. 

In time, the children were singing songs, doing performances and telling jokes on the doorsteps in exchange for a treat and this became known as “mumming”.

These traditions have evolved over the generations, to where we find ourselves now, with groups of children dressed up as witches, demons, ghosts and other masked figures, knocking on doors, asking for treats, with terrified adults handing over goodies in an attempt to ward off the little people. 👻

This year, we find ourselves in the unique situation of our little people not being allowed to go trick or treating. Don’t worry though, we’ve got you covered with our Halloween Treat Box, perfect to celebrate at home, or send to your Grandchildren, nieces and nephews and more.


About Linda

Linda is the founder of Choc Affair, with a passion for creating wonderfully delicious chocolates, that are ethically made.