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Halloween Lesson for Kids: History & Facts

Instructor: Angela Burke

Angela has over ten years of teaching experience in Special Education, classroom teaching and GT. She has a master's degree in Special Ed with an emphasis in Gifted.

Trick-or-treating and jack-o'-lanterns are popular Halloween traditions, but do you know the history behind this fun holiday? You may be surprised to find out how Halloween came to be! Discover the history of Halloween and some fun facts in this lesson.

Halloween Fun

Every year on October 31, you might see pirates, witches, zombies, princesses and action heroes walking down the streets of your neighborhood! To someone who didn't know any better, it might appear strange and even frightening to see kids dressed in costumes, knocking on doors and asking for candy. But in America, we know that the holiday of Halloween is a fun time for kids and adults to dress up, trick-or-treat and celebrate. But do you know how this popular celebration started and the history behind it? Let's find out!

How Halloween Began

Nearly 2,000 years ago, an ancient people called the Celts lived in Ireland. Every year around the time of Halloween, the Celts held a fire festival called Samhain (pronounced 'sah-win'), which means 'summer's end.' They were celebrating the end of the harvest.

Legend has it that Samhain was the time of year when spirits were most likely to pass into our realm and visit the living. The spirits of loved ones were invited to come home, and people prepared food for both the living and the dead. People wore masks and lit bonfires to ward off evil spirits.

This painting depicts a Samhain party in Ireland in 1832.
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As Christianity swept through Europe, the Celtic traditions spread across Europe but changed slightly to adopt to Christian principles. Rather than celebrating Samhain, Europeans celebrated All Saints' Day, otherwise known as All Hallows' Day, on November 1. But the celebrations actually began the day before on October 31, the holiday when people dressed in masks known as All Hallows' Eve.

Halloween in the Americas

As a large number of Europeans traveled to the United States in the 1800s, they brought the tradition of All Hallows' Eve with them. With time, the holiday became known for costumes and candy, and it took on the name 'Halloween.'

All Hallows' Day also spread to Mexico, where they celebrate a holiday called Day of the Dead. This celebration, held on the first two days of November, combines All Saints' Day with the Mexican tradition of honoring the dead. Families set up altars in homes that are beautifully decorated with flowers, candles and food to honor loved ones who have passed on.

It is believed that loved ones' spirits will be released from heaven to come and visit the family. Parties are held in the cemeteries, and people dress up in costume to celebrate life and ward of evil.

On the Day of the Dead, people set up beautifully decorated altars.
Day of the Dead

U.S. Halloween Traditions

If you've celebrated Halloween in the U.S., you've experiences trick-or-treating and jack-o'-lanterns!

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