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As Halloween's ancient history meets Christianity and comes to America, today's most popular traditions of costumes and trick or treating are solidified.
The ancient pagan rites practiced on October 31st involved celebration and superstition.

The Celtic festival of Samhain celebrated the harvest while dressing in costumes and lighting bonfires to ward off ghosts. After the conquer of the Celtic lands by the Romans, their 400-year rule blended the Celtic festival of Samhain with the Roman festivals of Feralia and Pomona.

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Halloween Meets Up With Christianity: All Saints’ Day
By the seventh century, Christianity’s grasp had extended within the Celtic lands, and November 1st had been designated a day to honor martyrs and saints by Pope Boniface IV. Current thought suggests the pope was attempting to replace the Celtic pagan festival with a holiday approved of by the church while still maintaining ties to the Celtic festival of the dead: Samhain.

All Saints’ Day was also called “All-hallows” or “All-hallowmas"-- basically middle English variants of All Saints’ Day. When the Christians declared November 1st as their All Saints’ Day or All Hallows’ Day, Samhain fell on All Hallows’ Eve later becoming "Halloween." In A.D. 1000, the church proclaimed November 2nd as All Souls' Day, and this day to honor the dead was celebrated much like Samhain with bonfires and costumes. Modern Halloween evolved out of a combination of Hallows' Eve, All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day.

Halloween Meets Up With America: Trick or Treating
With the emigration of European immigrants to America came their varied Halloween beliefs and customs.

Due to the strict Protestant ideals of early New England which opposed celebrating holidays deemed too secular, Halloween celebrations were much more common in the southern colonies. When the beliefs of the European ethnic groups mixed with the beliefs of these colonial Americans and the American Indians, a Halloween with a distinctly American flavor was born.

The celebrations of Halloween started out as public events celebrating the harvest, getting together with neighbors, sharing ghost stories, telling fortunes, dancing and singing and spreading mischief.
By the 1850s, America was flooded with millions of Irish immigrants fleeing the potato famine. The Irish and English traditions of jack o' lanterns, dressing in costumes and knocking on doors asking for money were adopted by Americans, and this evolved into the largest Halloween tradition of all: trick or treating.

Halloween Loses some Fright and Superstition
By the late nineteenth century, American Halloween was moving more in the direction of family-friendly community gatherings and moving farther away from its roots of superstition, ghost stories, mischief, and witchcraft. During this time, parents were instructed by the media and leaders to remove any dark elements from their Halloween celebrations.

By the start of the twentieth century, Halloween’s superstitious and religious elements were waning, and over the next 50 years, Halloween was further secularized and aimed at the young in an attempt to deter the vandalism that plagued Halloween celebrations -- seems the mischief element was struggling to survive.

With the baby boom of the fifties and busy family life, smaller-scale family celebrations at home and schools were favored over large-scale community celebrations. The movement of celebrating Halloween in the home further popularized trick or treating as it was an accessible and inexpensive way to preserve the community element in family Halloween celebrations.

Although Halloween is currently America’s second largest commercial holiday, many traditions practiced today like trick or treating, costumes, bonfires, bobbing for apples and jack o’ lanterns have their roots in the holiday’s rich superstitious and spiritual history.