Halloween, or All Hallows’ Eve, is a holiday that takes place at the end of October. People dress up like creatures, monsters, or beloved characters and celebrate in fun (and spooky) ways. It’s the start of the new year for Wiccans, who believe it to be the time of year when the boundaries between the real world and the supernatural are thinnest. People could tell fortunes and make significant prophecies about the coming future.
But Halloween has changed drastically since its Druidic origins in Ireland (the original home of this mystical holiday). How people celebrate Halloween has shifted according to technology, the size of cities, and attitudes about celebrating a holiday as a community. Fears for the safety of children alone altered how people celebrate Halloween drastically.
The origin of Halloween was religious, a day designated by the ancient Irish for celebrating and communicating with visiting spirits. It changed shape again when Catholic and Christian churches attempted to convert these people to their faiths.
Modern celebrations of Halloween have incorporated aspects of these and other traditions. It’s now a day of lighting candles in pumpkins (and turnips) to keep ghosts away, but also perhaps gathering treats from decorated cars in a church parking lot. A child would be more likely to mention a talking skeleton than a sacred bonfire when discussing the origin of Halloween.
Here’s a list of ways that Halloween has changed over the last 100 years, from how we celebrate it on the day to the costumes we wear trick-or-treating. We’ve included events, inventions, and trends that changed the ways that Halloween was celebrated over time. Many of these traditions were phased out over time. But just like fake blood in a carpet, every bit of Halloween’s history left an impression we can see traces of today.