Trick or Treat: A Brief History of Halloween

By Amanda Johnson

One of my favorite things about writing a blog is that I get to research subjects I find interesting but know little about. One of my favorite things about writing a blog for the preschool is that I get to relate my findings back to our children in a really fun way. Today I’m going to take a closer look at Halloween since it’s just right around the corner.


Halloween is a big deal. 600 billion pounds of candy are bought each year. ‘What are you going to be for Halloween?’ is often a question people ask as early as August. Serious thought and creativity goes into Halloween costumes. It can be overwhelming. But can we all agree there is nothing more adorable than a gaggle of mini Supermans and Moanas shouting ‘Trick or Treat’ on your doorstep?

Yet a lot of kids grow up thinking Halloween is all about dressing up, trick or treating, eating candy and carving pumpkins with no understanding of where the tradition came from. I know I did. And I had a blast. But as a parent, I find myself wondering what the meaning behind All Hallows Eve is, in part so I can give my son more context about the celebration as he grows up. I recognize two years old is a little young to start a history lesson, but it’s never too early to educate myself.

In brief:

Halloween has always been a holiday filled with mystery, magic and superstition. It began as a Celtic end-of-summer festival nearly 2000 years ago during which people felt especially close to spirits of their ancestors. Usually celebrated at the end of October when the prosperous summer months turned dark and cold as they entered winter. The Celts left food at their door to welcome good spirits and wore masks to scare off the bad ones.

Halloween was slow to start in America. By the end of the nineteenth century new immigrants, especially the millions of Irish fleeing the Potato Famine, helped to popularize the celebration of Halloween in America. Borrowing from these traditions, Americans began to dress up in costumes and go house to house asking for food or money, a practice that eventually became today’s “trick-or-treat” tradition.

It’s pretty interesting to learn how Halloween has shifted over time to become more of a children’s celebration of costumes and candy. Sure, it can still be a dark and mysterious occasion, but for the most part it’s a lot of fun!


We can’t talk about Halloween without mentioning pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns. The preschoolers learned about pumpkins earlier this month with their visits to Oxbow Farm and at the Fall Family Fun Event. There are many stories pertaining to the origins of jack-o-lanterns, but the most popular one comes from Ireland. The Irish used to carve radishes and light a candle in them to ward off bad spirits. Can you imagine trying to carve a radish? Dad would have a hard time with that one!

At BFCP, each class will have its own Halloween celebration, starting with the Toddler PM class on Wednesday. Check your October schedule to find out when your preschooler gets to join in on the fun.

Just like in ancient times, children – and parents too! - are encouraged to wear their costumes. Remember to bring a change of close for outdoor time. And please nothing scary and no weapons!

Here’s a quick rundown of the Halloween Party dates:

Wednesday, 10/24: Toddler PM

Thursday, 10/25: Toddler AM

Friday, 10/26: Parent and Baby and 2/3’s

Wednesday, 10/31: ¾’s and PreK

What are you going to be for Halloween?