From Ireland and Rome to The United States
The Emergence of Modern Halloween
All Saints' (or All Hallows') Day was created by the Catholic Church in the 7th century. Originally observed in the spring, it was moved to November 1 to merge Celtic beliefs with the Christian religion. October 31 became All Hallows' Eve, or what we now know as Halloween. All Souls' Day was added in the 10th century to honor all Christians who had died the previous year. In medieval England neighbors gave small round "soul cakes," a dessert bread topped with currants, in exchange for saying prayers for the dead. Children also received them for good luck.
Halloween traditions became widespread in America with the arrival of Irish immigrants fleeing the potato famine in the mid-1800s. While much of the connection with All Saints' Day has diminished today, many of the secular traditions have remained. The Irish turnip "Jack O' Lantern" has been replaced by a pumpkin. Dressing in costumes, "trick-or-treating," and fortune-telling with apples have all become central parts of Halloween.