By Heather Brown

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — While we may celebrate Halloween differently this year, many traditions remain. Like scary pumpkins, and snacking on candy.

So how did those traditions start? Good Question.

Halloween dates back 2000 years when the Celts celebrated with a festival called Samhain. It was to mark the beginning of winter — when it was cold and dark and people thought the spirits came out.

There were costumes back then, but no trick-or-treating, candy, or pumpkins.

This probably won’t be a huge shock — those are mostly ideas that started here in the U.S. — according to Halloween expert Lesley Bannatyne, author of five books on the topic.

So, pumpkins. We know for centuries Europeans carved vegetables like turnips or beets into lanterns for ways ward off evil spirits, but when Halloween made its way from Europe to the U.S in the 1800’s we substituted pumpkins. They were everywhere and easier to cut into.

Early on, kids would use carved pumpkins to scare people as the days turned shorter. Eventually, they just became great decorations.

What about trick-or-treating? According to Bannatyne, early Halloween in the U.S. was a lot of parties and parades.

But, by the early 1900s — the tricks were getting out of hand. There was vandalism, there were pranks.

So, town leaders pushed the idea trick-or-treating. It was the modern-day version of a centuries-old tradition of people going door to door asking for food.

And, those leaders emphasized the treat over the trick.

Candy companies are no dummies and realized this was great for them. They knew they could do better than the nuts and coins given out in the 1950’s.

That’s when the bite-size was invented.

So, let’s get back to costumes. They were popular 2000 years ago. For millennia, people have been dressing up or disguising themselves for lots of holidays.

But, over the past century or so, those, let’s say — Valentine’s costumes dropped off, but Halloween didn’t.

And, what started as frightening, morbid, homemade costumes — have now become so much more.

Heather Brown

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