Halloween has become a celebration of childhood and fun, but the holiday has strong roots in spirituality. Some of the first activities associated with Halloween date back nearly 2,000 years ago. Learn more about the early celebrations and how the holiday has evolved over time.
The first Halloween celebrations can be traced back to the time of the Celtic festival, Samhain (pronounced SAH-win).
The Celts associated death with the colder weather and darker days of winter, and considered Nov. 1 to be the last day of summer, the last day of the harvest season and the beginning of a new year.
The Celts believed that the boundary between the living and the dead was blurred on Oct. 31, which allowed the souls of the dead to return and walk the earth. The living would leave food and wine on their front steps to keep the dead at ease. If celebrants wanted to leave their homes, they would wear masks, hoping to be mistaken as ghosts.
To celebrate Samhain, the Druids, or Celtic priests, would light bonfires and sacrifice animals and crops to the dead. While doing this most of the Celts would be wearing some kind of primeval mask or costume, typically made of animal heads and skins.
Other Halloween traditions started in a more modern but still very medieval Britain, including a practice known as souling and guising.
On Nov. 2, or All Souls Day, the needy would beg for pastries called soul cakes, and in return they would pray for the deceased family of the generous donors. Guising involved dressing up in costume and accepting food, money or wine in return for the performance of songs, jokes or poetry.
However, these customs were not widely celebrated in America until the latter half of the 19th century, likely because Protestant beliefs kept most people from participating in what they considered a Pagan holiday. But times have changed.
Americans have made Halloween the second-most recognized and expensive holiday. According to a survey done by the National Retail Federation, 171 million Americans are expected to celebrate Halloween in 2016, spending a record $8.4 billion this year.
Trick or treat.