Food played an important role in the ancient Celt traditions from which Halloween developed.
Halloween evolved from the ancient Celtic harvest festival of Samhain, or Summer’s end, around two thousand years ago.
November 1st marked the end of Summer and the start of the cold, dark Winter — and with it, a season of death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31st, they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. Hence our love for all things ghostly at this time of year!
On that night, the Celts dressed in costumes to drive away ghosts. Celebration banquets took place, and people left food outside as an offering to the spirits. Sound familiar?
By the mid-800s, offering foods to the spirits evolved to a distribution of food, such as small cakes to the poor and hungry as part of the Roman Catholic Church’s declaration of All Soul’s Day holiday on November 1st. The poor who received the cakes would then pray for the souls of the dead.
Later, the custom of “mumming” on October 31st or All Hallow’s Evening – which turned into ‘Halloween’ developed, where people dressed as ghosts or other creatures and performed for neighbours in exchange for food and drinks.
According to English Heritage, the tradition of carving pumpkins for Halloween originated in English and Irish immigrants in America finding pumpkins plentiful in the Autumn and much easier to carve than the traditional turnips they were used to. Plus the added benefit of tasting a whole lot nicer.
So, whether you are trick or treating with some little ones or just enjoying a pumpkin feast, remember that you are following in the footsteps of an old tradition.