What is Halloween?

Barbara J. Feldman

Boo! Happy Halloween! It’s that time of year again, when goblins and witches roam our streets in search of trick-or-treat candies. But, what exactly is Halloween? This week’s sites explore the origins of the holiday and how Halloween celebrations have changed over the years.

  • Halloween History3 stars

    This two-page mini-site lacks illustrations, but has a spooky-looking design that suits its subject. This article covers the story of the Jack O'Lantern ("The term is not particularly common outside North America, although the practice of carving lanterns for Halloween is.") and the history of Halloween costumes. "Costuming became popular for Halloween parties in America in the early 1900s, as often for adults as for children. The first mass-produced Halloween costumes appeared in stores in the 1930s when trick-or-treating was becoming popular in the United States."

  • Halloween is Here: Halloween History5 stars

    Halloween is Here tells the story of Halloween, including why we bob for apples, wear masquerade masks, and why witches ride on broomsticks. "The witch is a central symbol of Halloween. The name comes from the Saxon wica, meaning wise one. When setting out for a Sabbath, witches rubbed a sacred ointment onto their skin. This gave them a feeling of flying, and if they had been fasting they felt even giddier." Other sections of the site offer rancid recipes, ghost stories, costume ideas and safety tips.

  • History.com: Halloween5 stars

    "Straddling the line between fall and winter, plenty and paucity, life and death, Halloween is a time of celebration and superstition. It is thought to have originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts." History.com presents Halloween with links to related topics such as History of the Jack O'Lantern and full-length video episodes about monsters, vampires, and Dr. Frankenstein.

  • Pumpkin Patches and More: The History of Halloween4 stars

    Although the font makes this Pumpkin Patches and More article look as though it is only for young kids, it is appropriate for all ages, as it is well-written and includes a bibliography of sources and references, including one from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Center for Celtic Studies. "Since much of the history of Halloween wasn't written down for centuries; some of it is still sketchy and subject to debate. But the most plausible theory is that Halloween originated in the British Isles out of the Pagan Celtic celebration of Samhain. It goes back as far as 5 B.C. It was believed that spirits rose from the dead and mingled with the living on this day."

  • True Ghost Tales: The History and Origins of Halloween5 stars

    For older students and grownups, True Ghost Tales focuses on the spooky side of Halloween with stories about ghosts, vampires, ghouls, witches, and monsters. This article about the origins of Halloween, tells about its Celtic origins, and also explores (see the links at the bottom) the history of trick or treating and the wearing of costumes. "Halloween's origins go all the way back to Ancient times with the Celtic festival of Samhain. This was the Celt's version of a New Years Eve celebration honoring the end of summer and harvest time, and marking a period of cold, darkness, and death of winter. Celts believed that this end of the year time marked the time in which the barrier between the living and the dead became thin."

  • Honorable Mentions

    The following links are either new discoveries or sites that didn't make it into my newspaper column because of space constraints. Enjoy!


    Cite This Page

  • Feldman, Barbara. "What is Halloween?." Surfnetkids. Feldman Publishing. 25 Oct. 2011. Web. 2 Oct. 2014. <http://www.surfnetkids.com/resources/what-is-halloween/ >.


  • About This Page

  • By . Originally published October 25, 2011. Last modified March 9, 2014.

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